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President spoke well, but his regime's failures all too clear

By Patrick Muinde | Dec 14th 2021 | 5 min read

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Deputy President William Ruto during the 57th Jamhuri Day national celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, Nairobi County. December 12th,2021.  [DPPS]

In policy dialogue, one of the primary sources of public policies is the President’ speech. In a national event of the significance of the independence day, it gives fodder for technocrats to figure out their leader’s reflections on the past and his/her mind into the future.

In his final speech as Head of State and Government, the President did a great balance of the two worlds. To his speechwriters, ‘kudos’ for keeping it concise and focused.

I must say it was tasty, compared to a couple I have analysed in the recent past. For purposes of synthesising it for the unsaid in-between-the-lines and signalling of his views for the nation into the future, allow me to highlight the key points I was able to isolate.

Historical context

In a beautiful way, the President retraces the nations’ independence history and the heavy sacrifices many of our unsung heroes made to birth us the freedoms that we enjoy today.

He seems to acknowledge that his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, though privileged to have been the founding president, was just one among many. This is especially important for good students of history and those that care to understand the nation’s struggle for independence.

A couple of years ago, I set out to try to understand the true account of the struggle for independence.

From the works of renowned scholar Ngungi wa Thiong’o and Maina wa Kinyatti, one cannot fail to feel that there was part of the independence struggle that was never factually recorded in the books we read in school.

Definitely, there were many patriots who sacrificed their all to liberate our land, but have never been acknowledged well, especially in official circles. Another undeniable impression created from these historical accounts is that soon after independence, there was a deliberate official attempt for neocolonialism and perpetuation of the divide and rule practices of the colonialists.

It would also be instrumental to remember that the President, in the heat of the 2017 campaigns, seemed to water down sacrifices made by the non-GEMA communities.

So it was refreshing to hear him reconcile with these historical facts and make reference to the many undocumented heroes of the independence struggle. More importantly, he unambiguously characterises the faith, resilience and unending hope for a better tomorrow, which is the true genius of this country and the Kenyan people.

The evidence for this truth is reflected in the struggle for multiparty democracy, the 2007 post-election violence and the 2017 presidential election debacle.

I dare say, even with the mountain of fiscal deficit, public debt and unresolved mega corruption scandals his administration will be leaving behind, this Kenyan spirit continues to flow across the length and breadth of the nation. The same spirit has carried us past the horrors of Covid-19.

The misfiring

For those that said the President was too young to retire, he left no doubt that he had already reconciled himself to the inevitability of handing over state power and the trappings of affluence that come with it. He clearly acknowledges that the battle for a better Kenya is long from over. Each generation must play their part. In addition, those entrusted to run the affairs of the state, just like it is done in relays, must pass on the baton to another to continue with the race. It can never be a marathon, for every generation comes with its own genius that must be brought to bear in nation building. 

On this, the President shoots on his own backyard, given his privileged background and implied choice of successor. Though he cannot be purely evaluated based on the standards of the founding father of the nation and his mentor, it is hard to draw a clear line of departure. Historical accounts paint the first and second presidents as those that leaned on the philosophy of a monarchial system of government.

This ideology led to the excesses of the two regimes that stirred the birth on of a second liberation. Probably, it is the same reasons that can explain the missed dream of a prosperous land inscribed in our national symbols of the national anthem and the national flag. Although it could be seen as an accident of history, probably he is best placed to open and prepare the nation for smooth transitions. This must guarantee the most talented and competent in our midst to dare dream to assume strategic positions of leadership at any level.

Further, the President shoots another own goal by wondering what happened that Kenya missed out as the Asian tigers took off into economic stardom and a seat of honour among the community of nations. As I have postulated on these pages several times, a nation can never grow beyond the imagination and vision of its leaders. It is unfortunate that Uhuru wonders on this at the tail end of his decade old administration.

Those surrounding him to take over have also been around in strategic roles for three to four decades. The natural question then is: What new are they bringing to the table that they have not been able to do in their finest hour? Isn’t it time to nurture and let a new generation bring the genius of their time to the threshing floor? More intricate, it is hard for him to walk away from his family’s legacy and that of his mentor. Those chords of history are too strong to break, as we find answers to our missed take-off.

On the handshake and the BBI, repeating it over and over again in national events leaves a lot to be desired. It is quite hard to figure out why it has been so hard for him and his brother to ‘accept and move on’. For the good students of literature, it is impossible to wonder whether there wasn’t more than the masses were meant to believe. What really was the true intent of this BBI?

The future

The President alluded to a cooking new developmental blueprint for Vision 2063. It was noteworthy that it was also among the few occasions in his entire presidency that he made direct reference to Vision 2030. Unfortunately, the goals of the vision were derailed from the shortermism of his two five-year term targets. This seems to mean a lack of continuity of the Big Four agenda. To the best of my recollections, the National Economic Council that he chairs has never met in his entire term. It was the custodian and ultimate bearer of the Vision 2030 goals.

It was refreshing to hear the Jamhuri Park utilised purely local talent and materials. This is the song we have advocated to rejuvenate the economy. Finally, the true legacy to take home here is for the next administration to open a candid conversation on what ‘ate’ the dreams of our founding fathers. What truly botched our imaginations to veer off the path of the Asian Tigers? As a true patriot, I personally desire to be at the heart of this conversation mind, body and soul.

As the President correctly affirms, we must face our history with brutal honesty in order to lay an enduring foundation of the future we not only desire but also deserve.

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