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Uhuru has 13 months to secure legacy in face of succession race

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng'etich | June 9th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta takes a bow with newly sworn-in Judge of the Court of Appeal Justice Hellen Amollo Omondi after she took her oath of office at a swearing-in ceremony held at State House, Nairobi.[PSCU, Standard]

With exactly 13 months to the end of his term, President Uhuru Kenyatta has a litany of issues to handle and several balls to juggle to secure his legacy.

He entered State House in 2013 with colourful pledges that were embellished in 2017 when he promised to create jobs for millions of youth, food security and free education.

At the start of his second term, President Kenyatta unveiled the Big Four agenda focusing on food security, universal health coverage, affordable housing and manufacturing.

Today, the president is also battling to save the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which was birthed through the March 2018 Handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

He is also navigating a frosty relationship with his deputy William Ruto and has to deal with heated succession politics and an onslaught from the Judiciary.

He has staked part of his legacy on passing of the proposed amendments to the 2010 Constitution and this will significantly preoccupy him in coming months as he tries to salvage a referendum push after the High Court declared the BBI null and void.

During Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu, the president shared his frustration with the Judiciary’s verdict that slowed down the initiative which seeks to effectively changed 74 clauses in the Constitution and used the opportunity to highlight benefits of BBI.

Key among the issues the referendum was to address is enhancing inclusivity at the helm of government to address the winner-takes problem.

Succession politics will also likely occupy Uhuru’s time in coming months given that he has no heir apparent owing to the sour relations with the DP.

The proposed expanded Executive under BBI which is now in limbo pending an appeal, would give Uhuru a free hand to navigate and assemble a team to succeed him. 

Ruto has mounted a spirited campaign under the banner of Hustler nation with a ‘bottom up’ economic model.

His allies are emboldened by their public outreach and on Monday asked the president to respect the Constitution and retire in August.

Uhuru’s headache

Uhuru’s headache will be how to navigate the political ambitions of Ruto, Raila and the One Kenya Alliance principals Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetangula, and still keep the country united. The DP has already charted own his path with United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party with his allies conducting popularisation drives across the country.

For Raila, it will be interesting to see how the president will treat him after he decided to go slow on Opposition politics to protect a ‘brother.’

President Kenyatta’s other political nightmare is a restive Mt Kenya that has in the past been politically homogeneous but is now fracturing into Mt Kenya East and West.

The rumble in the mountain has become so intense that politicians are pulling apart as opposed to what has since Independence, been a united Gema. 

During the Madaraka Day celebrations, the president seemed to be recasting the Big Four Agenda into four legacy frames of economic acceleration, push for big investments, restoration of dignity and political stability which Prof Winnie Mitula, a governance expert, says are one and the same thing.

Under economic acceleration, President Kenyatta listed three thematic areas of increasing the speed of achieving national goals under the national, county and individual levels.

A recent Parliament Budget Office report however spelled doom on the Big Four Agenda.

It observed that “the Big Four Agenda appears to be very peripheral to the budget despite having been allocated approximately Sh135 billion and 2021/2022 being the last ‘full’ financial year of implementation, it is apparent that many of the big four targets will not be met by the current administration.”

Teething challenges

The president’s aspiration was that by 2022, all persons in Kenya will be able to use the essential services they need for their health and wellbeing through a single unified benefit package under UHC, without the risk of financial burden. However, the pilot project on UHC in Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos counties got a lukewarm reception with governors claiming it had teething challenges.

Former Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki in an earlier interview with The Standard admitted the health system was weak.

“One important lesson that we have learnt is that our health system for a long time has been facility-focused which is part of the problem.

“To change this, we are working to improve promotional and preventive healthcare as opposed to curative. This will reduce the more cases that end up in health facilities,” Ms Kariuki said.

The CS said the pilot was thus to know the status and it was realised that the insurance model was not achieving much, especially due to gaps at the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Still, the latest tiff between the Executive and the Judiciary will also occupy Uhuru’s time.

The Head of State has come under harsh criticism over his decision to reject six judges and because of his attack on the Judiciary for declaring the BBI null and void.

There has been intense pressure from Chief Justice Martha Koome, elected leaders, civil society and three court cases challenging his Judiciary appointments. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) nominated High Court Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Aggrey Muchelule and Weldon Korir to the Appellate court but they were left out when the president made the appointments last week.

Former Registrar of the High Court Judith Omange and Chief Magistrate Evans Makori, who had been nominated to the Environment and Lands Court, also did not get appointed.

Koome asked the president to appoint the six judges.

“Respect for the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary is guaranteed under the Constitution. No person or authority is allowed to direct the JSC or the Judiciary in the execution of its mandate,” the CJ said.

Politicians have also not spared the president criticisms over the Judiciary appointments.

Tharaka/Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki faulted the president for his action, saying he cannot cherry pick judges.

“There is no way the six judges who were humiliated by the president yesterday will enjoy full confidence of litigants going forward,” said Prof Kindiki.

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