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Kenya needs a president who'll create economic, political stability

By Dismas Mokua | Jan 2nd 2022 | 5 min read

Voters queue to cast their votes at Ratta Primary School in Seme, Kisumu County. August 2017. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Article 238 of the Constitution says national security is the protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, its people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity, and other national interests.

The article further states that national security of Kenya shall be promoted and guaranteed in a manner consistent and subject to the Constitution. That national security must be pursued in compliance with the law and with the utmost respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Article 1 states that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution. Kenyans may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.

The Constitution provides for the building blocks of a stable nation that represent and capture the cumulative interests and aspirations of all Kenyans. Article 1 and Article 238 point to the fact the Kenya’s elected leadership must go the extra mile to guarantee and secure stability and prosperity. Stability and prosperity is the raison d'être for all elected leadership.

Three things must exist for any State to enjoy stability and prosperity. A stable defence and security that is subject to the Constitution, a stable political climate and stable economics. These three components form the triad of stability and prosperity. Kenya has a stable defence and security infrastructure consistent with articles 131, 241 and 238.

Which is why as we look at this year's presidential election, Kenyans must delegate sovereign power to a leader who will guarantee and secure political and economic stability. Failure to do so means Kenyans will wallow in a miasma of impunity, mediocrity and corruption. Either or will not work. Political and economic management skills must be the bare minimum.

While there is no standard definition for political instability, it is possible to establish components of political instability. These include unhealthy conflicts and competition between powerful political personalities that compromise management of State affairs. Most of the time this disorder is caused by powerful politicians pursuing selfish personal interests disguised as public and national interests.

Change of governments may occasion political instability as well. Most nations come to a standstill as they wait for electoral authorities to declare presidential elections winners. While hope is not a strategy, citizens hope that elections are free and fair and that presidential candidates will accept the outcome. They also hope that if unhappy, parties will make their way to the courts and respect the courts' verdict.

Kenya faces similar wafts that translate to tension and depressed business one year to and one year after elections. However, Kenya has time tested infrastructure for creating political stability.

The US experienced political instability when Donald Trump disputed presidential election results. His supporters invaded the seat of power and temporarily disturbed the US Congress.

Economic growth and political stability are joined at the hip. Political instability is not good for business. Instability compromises economic growth and development besides suffocating Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Investors look for political stability. On the flip side, poor economic performance may lead to political unrests. Hungry citizens will be in the streets demanding for bread. Such was the case during the French revolution.

History tells us that Queen Marie-Antoinette told starving peasants who could not access bread to go and enjoy cake. Scholars however dispute whether in fact she said as much given the translations.

Closer home in Tunisia, Ben Ali was forced out of office by citizens who were unhappy over his economic management.

A gentleman by the name Mohammed Bouazizi was minding his business selling fruits when he got a visit from local officers. These officers had developed a high appetite for visiting him to pick bribes. He couldn’t take it anymore and set himself on fire.

Bouazizi was a victim of economic instability. His immolation catalysed the Jasmine Revolution. This revolution inspired the Arab Spring that affected Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. Ben Ali was eventually forced out of office in January 2011.

The UhuRuto administration has faced serious political and economic challenges. The dynamic duo seemed to have had a perfect working relationship during their first term. The same cannot be said of their second term. Both have admitted in public that the second term is not rosy. It is easy to compare UhuRuto turbulence with Obasanjo/Atiku tiff in Nigeria.

Public pronouncements suggest mutual mistrust, suspicion and contempt. This has translated to hard economic times for Moraa. Wanjiku has been asking if indeed she is better off today compared to when President Mwai Kibaki left office.

Our neighbours are having our lunch. Rwanda is taking proactive steps and will soon be the regional aviation hub at the expense of Kenya. Uganda enjoys food security. The cost of production in Uganda is significantly lower compared to Kenya.

You will need Ksh12 to buy one egg at wholesale price in Kenya. The same goes for Ksh5 across the border in Uganda. Kenya suffers food insecurity six decades after independence and 10 years into devolution. It is not unusual for Kenyans to drive across the border and buy fuel from Tanzania.

Despite heavy investments in the energy sector, Kenya has the fourth highest cost of power for households in Africa. A Global Petrol Prices analysis, which was done in March but released in September had interesting findings.

That in March, the cost of electricity was USD0.217 per kWh for households and US$0.167 for businesses. For comparison, the average price of electricity in the world for that period was USD0.136 per kWh for households and US$0.124 for business.

Meanwhile, Kenya Power has signed skewed contracts. Kenya Power has to pay for power produced even if the same cannot be sold. IPP contracts are opaque. Authorities promised a process to reduce costs by up to 33 per cent starting December last year.

Kenya has developed a high appetite for commercial loans instead of concessionary lending. Nobody has explained the logic for borrowing expensive money. President Kibaki had a serious allergy to public debt.

Kenya has a unique opportunity to transform from latent energy to kinetic energy if voters take decisions free from the shackles of tribal chiefs. They must not take decisions informed by their selfish interests. The Kenyan voters must elect a president who will create political and economic stability.

The writer is a Nairobi-based political risk analyst

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