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Opinion divided over Uhuru's legacy as the curtain falls

President Uhuru Kenyatta stands still as the final national anthem in the military barracks is played outside the Defense headquarters during the KDF Farewell event for the outgoing head of state on September 9, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

On April 9, 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta took an oath of office, in front of an ecstatic crowd at Moi International Sports Complex in Kasarani, Nairobi.

Tomorrow, at almost the same time, the son of the first President Jomo Kenyatta returns to the same grounds to grudgingly hand over after his constitutional two terms in office.

Uhuru’s 10 years began on a high with his supporters viewing him as a youthful president at 51, thus describing his ascension and that of his deputy William Ruto as the “digital team” and labelling their opponent  Raila Odinga, 67, as analogue.

It was the energy of the campaigns and the vivacious entry to power that raised expectations of his presidency.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi says Uhuru played an important role in uniting the country, especially through the handshake with Raila when the country was divided right in the middle after the 2017 election.

“There are those who believe that the handshake was not a good thing but, bringing unity was important for the country; he leaves a united country behind,” said Osotsi.

He said the infrastructural development like roads was also another area that Uhuru succeeded in taking after former president Mwai Kibaki’s.

Former Kiambu Governor James Nyoro also lauded the president on the infrastructural development terming it a big achievement.

“For one to use a computer, you must first buy the hardware before you install the software. The roads, ports, and airports expansion and construction have set the country into a better trajectory that will allow an incoming administration to spur the economy,” he said.

“Some challenges were on managing the public debt and failure to put in place a better system of climate change so as to improve food security in the country. But the implementation of the 2001 Constitution was excellent,” added Dr Nyoro

Ruto’s ally Garissa Township MP Aden Duale concurs that Uhuru’s first term saw the country experience development.

“His first term was a transformative period where roads were built, jobs were created and the rule of law was upheld in government, we were proud of his administration then,” Duale said.

He however noted that Uhuru’s second term has been a “disaster and worst” and typical example of how not to run the government.

“On the sunset of Uhuru’s government, he will be remembered as a president who violated the Constitution, implemented the worst State capture of the Kenyan economy, and a man who used the criminal justice system to intimidate people with contrary opinion,” says Duale.

The former National Assembly Majority Leader further alleged that Uhuru will also be remembered as the president who gave undue advantage to his family and shielded them when they engaged in corrupt activities even as his allies labelled Ruto and those allied to him as corrupt.

Uhuru’s 10 years in office have been a roller coaster.

His two terms can be politically divided into two, one where he worked with his deputy for six years and the other where he worked with the opposition, which has seen him secure place in the opposition as soon as he hands over the sword to his friend turned foe Ruto.

The second born of Mama Ngina’s four children - Kristina Wambui Pratt, Anna Nyokabi Muthama, and Muhoho Kenyatta- Uhuru had unsuccessfully run for the top seat after former President Moi anointed him as his preferred successor in 2002 but was trounced by Kibaki under the National Rainbow Coalition.

It was under Uhuru’s tenure that the Constitution came into full implementation but opinion is divided on how he handled the process.

“I think he was a huge obstacle to the implementation of the way Kenyans expected. There so many things that were done against the letter and spirit of the Constitution, there were cases taken to court and even when the court ruled against him he would find a way of disregarding them,” Duale said.

On implementation of devolution former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto gives Uhuru 45 per cent.

“We have seen a lot but much has also not been done. There was a lot of resistance in the beginning but because of insistence by the Council of Governors, his government dropped the responsibilities with a bang without much support on the way forward,” said Ruto.

Uhuru and Ruto enjoyed a camaraderie that gave hopes to Kenyans that the two leaders would work together for the good of the country.

The first sign of cracks in the relationship of the two leaders was seen when Uhuru named the new Cabinet after the 2017 elections where unlike in 2013 he was not flanked by Ruto.

When the outgoing President and Raila came together during the March 9, 2018 famous handshake Uhuru said that his intention was to promote unity and harmony, even as it appeared that the DP was caught flat-footed just like other Kenyans.

Even though the coming together of Uhuru and the ODM leader was hailed internationally, it marked the beginning of sour relations between the Jubilee leaders.

The President took every opportunity to acknowledge Raila’s presence in various public engagements in what initially appeared as an intention to unite the country.

But Ruto allies have insisted that the handshake killed the Big Four Agenda that was Uhuru’s legacy projects.

“After the handshake, everything went haywire. The Big Four was replaced by the circuitous Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that took government’s time,” said Belgut MP Nelson Koech.

But, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the President’s Executive order in 2019 that gave powers to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi to coordinate and supervise all government projects countrywide in what many deemed as meant to undermine his Deputy who did not have any roles.

“I can only account for what we did with Uhuru from 2013 to 2017, what happened after the 2017 General Election I cannot be held accountable since it was Uhuru and Raila who have been calling the shots while I was sidelined in crucial government decisions,” Ruto has been quoted saying.

But, Dr Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Economics believes there is a huge positive to Uhuru’s presidency in terms of infrastructural projects.

“President Kenyatta has overseen the construction of 11,000 kilometres of road, hundreds of other of railways, and the Standard Gauge Railways and upgraded the Kisumu port that would connect the region,” said Nyandemo.