If I were Uhuru Kenyatta, I would have done three things on the January 30, 2018. Number One; I would have ordered the positioning of the ‘Flying Squad’ in strategic, inconspicuous bushy spots in Uhuru Park. Number two; I would have ordered for their swift mobilisation and had them swoop to whisk Raila Odinga off after he read the second line of his ‘swearing in’ oath. As soon as he opened his mouth and uttered the damning words, “…assume the office of the people’s president of the Republic of Kenya, do swear…….” Number three; I would have had everyone who was squeezed into that makeshift dias of illegality carried off to assorted cells around the country. I would ensure that it would be a ‘no one left behind operation’. This bust would include everyone, from the oath-taker, to the oath-givers, to the oath observers and the oath filmers. Absolutely everyone.
More than a week after the ‘swearing in’ event, Raila Odinga is walking free, even proposing another election date. The fact that Uhuru Kenyatta did not act swiftly and decisively on the day is baffling. And I say this because the treasonous act was not just a blatant contravention of the Constitution; it was an affront on the very sovereignty of Kenya.
That is the message that the swearing-in of a parallel president sent. However, and more importantly, the inaction thereafter sent a stronger message. That in this country, if you want power badly enough, you can take matters into your own hands, you can swear yourself in and declare a parallel state. In short, the state can be snatched, hijacked and commandeered based on entitlement and illusions of grandeur. I am hard pressed to think which stable country in the world would actually let this kind of circus take place unrestricted. Even Hillary Clinton who won the American popular vote against Donald Trump by over two million conceded defeat and went to lick her wounds in the privacy of her home. The rules are the rules. Breaking them only breeds a wild, chaotic and dangerous political culture. It is a slippery slope to taking on the disastrous title of ‘Kenya, the Banana Republic’.
In my view, the reason why Kenyatta should have instantaneously nipped this swearing in business in the bud is simple. What begins as a minor scrap on the national political skin can slowly develop into an open wound of disorder. When left to fester, it will grow septic and begin to weep continually. The problem with a festering, unattended wound is that it stops being a localised problem and infects the rest of the body. Unfettered contravention of the Constitution and rampant destabilization tactics eventually affects the entire body politic, the commonwealth, the ‘Will of All’. And when this is lost, there will be no country within which to enjoy any constitutional provisions and freedoms.
Sow seeds of discord
Secondly, it would not be enough for Kenyatta to act swiftly, but to also respond conclusively to this arbitrary creation of a ‘parallel republic’. A political problem, as Machiavelli instructs, should not be responded to half-heartedly, it should be finished in its entirety. Conclusively. If one small ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. And yes, Raila’s ‘swearing in’ was the very time Uhuru Kenyatta should have unapologetically applied Machiavellianism. He should have responded by arresting and charging Raila with treason. It is, after all, his duty as the ‘protector of the nation’, and the Commander-in-Chief to respond ruthlessly to threats to the country’s stability.
In any case, the anticipated unrest that would follow Raila’s arrest would be transient and incomparable to the route that Raila’s chaotic politics will take us. Even the Bible says that the Lord hates those who sow seeds of discord. Bottom line is that if I were Kenyatta, I would once and for all put an end to the political recklessness that is slowly becoming the norm in this country. This endless cycle of unproductive politics is exhausting and paralyzing. But then again, I am not Kenyatta.
- The writer is a PhD candidate in Political Economy at SMC University and a research fellow at Fort Hall School of Government. [email protected]