I never thought I would ever say this – but I am starting to feel sorry for the scion of the Burning Spear. I am not tearing yet, but the man from Gatundu is showing signs of being a lame duck. Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta has chosen the worst time to develop feet of clay. I say so as someone who desperately supports Mr Kenyatta’s war on corruption. The war is turning out to be a boon for the lords of corruption.
Every time Mr barks, the lords of impunity snicker and shrug – and laugh all the way to the bank. The thieves figure Kenyatta is a toothless bulldog – with nary a bite. Is he checkmated and left to futile lamentations?
Let me peel your eyes. The most significant event in Kenyatta’s last term as Kenya’s CEO was the March 9, handshake with ODM’s Raila Odinga. Let me tell you something. Kenyatta and Raila are yet to transform the handshake from an “event” to a “process.” A process to a particular destination. For Kenyatta, that destination is his legacy. For Raila, I like to think it’s the proverbial Canaan.
But today I write about Kenyatta, not Raila. Going from “event” to “process” requires several antecedents. The most important of those is to neutralise – neuter, if you will – his cunning and cutthroat numero dos. So far Kenyatta hasn’t “solved” DP William Ruto.
My advice for Kenyatta is that his push for a legacy will be for naught unless he politically crushes Mr Ruto. There’s no need for sentimentality here, or the waving of the tribal card.
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No – this is realpolitik. If Kenyatta doesn’t corral Ruto – and make him completely irrelevant – he will serve for ten years at the helm of the state but in actual fact write nothing on the sands of history. It will be akin to serving an unremarkable one term at State House. I can’t imagine that’s what the man they call Kamwana wants. He needs to use the “handshake” to get out of Ruto’s political jail. For this, he must effectively leverage Raila.
In William Shakespeare’s Twelve Night, there’s a famous line that behooves Kenyatta to read carefully. It intones that “[S]ome are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Which of those persons is he? Kenyatta is staring his Waterloo in the face unless he can course-correct by acting boldly. Does he care about a legacy? If so, he cannot afford to just talk because talk is cheap.
He needs to wield the political machete that the Constitution gives him to secure his place in history by doing great things for Kenya. Kenyatta risks being a man with power but who doesn’t know how to wield it. What will be inscribed in his epitaph?
Kenyatta is fond of shouting himself hoarse excoriating those who’ve looted our country to its knees on his watch. All he can manage – in the face of gargantuan daylight heists of the national purse are pinpricks and empty threats. He barks at the judiciary and threatens Armageddon.
Frankly, the country is tired of hearing his fire and brimstone harangues. The people are baying for the blood of the looters. As he himself rightly opined, the people will take the law into their hands if the brazen looting doesn’t stop. After that dire warning, the only thing he did was to fire the indescribably inept Sports minister Rashid Echesa. Then he moved a few factotums around. That’s a total joke.
My free advice to Kenyatta is to throw caution to the wind and tame Ruto. That’s because Ruto and his brigade are dead set against the war on corruption.
Kenyatta has to choose whether to appease Ruto and his ilk, or go for broke and fully embrace and weaponise Raila to go hammer and tongs against the cancer of corruption. Only Raila can immunise Kenyatta from opprobrium in an all-out anti-corruption campaign.
Which will it be – his legacy as an anti-corruption kingpin, or a cave in to Ruto? He can’t have it both ways. Tip-toing around the dilemma will not help him. He must cast his die, and live with the results.
This is what Kenyatta must do. Or give up. He must completely clean out the upper echelons of his government. Fire all his ministers and top civil servants. He must incinerate – in an inferno – his own handpicked government because it has utterly failed him and Kenyans. He must swing for the fences without pity. This is the only path that will give him a chance to secure a decent legacy. Take it to the bank.
- The writer is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua