Uhuru will leave behind rich legacy of being a great pan-Africanist

President Uhuru Kenyatta. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

The approach to the end of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency gives room to two developments. First, the jostling to inherit the presidency. On the face of it, there appears to be two rival camps whose common denominator is the argument that the economy is in bad shape. Each claims to have a cure to the supposed national economic malaise and offering solutions that seem to make sense only to their cheer leaders.

The second relates to Uhuru’s repeated statements about his legacy. This calls for preliminary assessment of various aspects of Uhuru’s nine-year presidency that would cumulatively constitute his legacy in the domestic and international arenas. Initially, he was hesitant on how to assert his authority. In 2015, he ordered a multi-sectoral review on how to fight corruption and received a report asserting that fighting corruption was a process, not an event. The process turned out to be so slow that it could not slow down corruption.

Uhuru’s presidency has been unique. Having survived challenges to his elections in 2013 and 2017, he grew into the presidency. He has the advantage of being the first president under the new 2010 Constitution enabling him to set precedents and standards for future presidents. Domestically, he has done well on infrastructural developments; constructing roads, railways, connecting electricity, as well as building and expanding airports and seaports. Uhuru gets credit for overseeing devolution. In the just-concluded 7th Devolution Conference in Makueni, a notable happening was counties showcasing their products and related economic activities. Badly run counties had little to display or sell during the conference.

Uhuru’s most important legacy, however, hinges on his performance on the international stage. He started by weathering the ICC storm and finding international bearing in the midst of challenges. Since boundaries were an issue, he created the Kenya International Boundaries Office, but it lacked capacity to deal with the Euro maritime aggression using the Somalia proxy. Kenya could have done better. Despite some disappointments, Uhuru managed to charm his way into the hearts and minds of other leaders in Africa and the world. A major factor propelling him internationally is the legacy of his father, President Jomo Kenyatta as an anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist.

He exploited the imperialist victim image by repeatedly pushing a Pan-Africanist agenda in the African continent and the Caribbean islands where Jomo’s name was synonymous with anti-imperialism. Uhuru shines when dealing with issues relating to the Caribbean and African countries, pushing the anti-imperialist agenda. It is not easy because there seemingly are other African countries, in their perceived national interests, trying to block his continental projection.

He still persists and offers to open the Kenyan space to Africans, on reciprocal basis, but there are few takers. In South Africa, he suggested removing colonially constructed borders in order to enhance trade and human interaction across the continent. That persistence is part of his international legacy. Unlike his father, Uhuru loves air travel, visiting diverse countries and maintaining an ideological balance among feuding powers. He often is the African face in world assemblies where he articulates issues of ACP concerns. This too is part of his legacy.