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Why Cherargei's proposal on term limit is driven by sentiment

 Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei addressing the media at Parliament on September 25, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei’s proposal to extend the presidential term to seven years lacks foundational basis. It draws more from sentiment than anything else.

In part, he argues that formative years of a new presidency are lost in litigation where the opposition hardly ever accepts presidential results. To him, therefore, seven years would compensate for time lost. 

His argument is premised on erroneous assumption that all individuals elected into office are competent. However, history holds a different view, and the verdict is harsh. Majority of individuals elected to the presidency globally turned out to be hopelessly inept.

The presidential term in Kenya is 10 years. However, drafters of the Constitution anticipated a situation where the office holder could be so inept that a straight 10-year stretch would be a nightmare for citizens. It was therefore necessary to break the period into halves.

That way, office holders have the chance to acquit themselves, upon which they could confidently seek re-election for another five years. Those who underperform get kicked out when the window to assess them is due. 

The philosophy of leadership demands that leaders take actions in the best interests of citizens. These considerations must be based on the trait, behavioural and contingency theories of leadership. The trait theory holds that leadership is inherent in some people and missing in others. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President best fits the description of individuals in whom leadership is inherent. A born leader.

Conversely, there are any number of dictators like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, King Leopold II and Pol Pot who the world endured, but wished it could forget.

If today such an individual sat at the apex of Kenya’s leadership, would Cherargei advocate extension of their term limit? If it were Raila Odinga or George Wajackoyah occupying the presidency, would he have made this proposal? 

In one year of unfulfilled promises, President William Ruto has moved from hero to villain.

Now, as much as the president is an extremely powerful individual, the presidency is a gulag. There are some things the president cannot do unilaterally, no matter how well intentioned. That reality confronts the Kenya Kwanza leadership today. President Ruto is yet to exhibit the contingency theory aptly exhibited by President Franklin Rooselvelt who took office amid the Great Depression of the 1920s. That depression was worse than effects of the Ukraine war on which our government blames its shortcomings on.

Roosevelt identified with the common people and won their trust through measures that cushioned them from effects of the Great Depression. We are yet to see such measures and the government has turned its back on the so-called hustlers. What, then, is the basis for Cherargei’s proposal to extend President Ruto’s term, for indeed, that is all what it is about?

A takeaway from Cherargei’s proposal is that our elections are hardly above board; the more reason the IEBC must be reconstituted and loose ends in our electoral laws tightened.

Five years, nay, ten, are enough for any serious leader. If one is inept, a century would still not be enough. 

The writer is a Sub Editor at The Standard. [email protected]

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