Mukhisa Kituyi (pictured) comes across as a refined gentleman. His polished speech and genteel mannerisms put him in the league of fine wine imbibers and not garrulous beer-swigging riffraff that characterise Kenya’s political landscape. Back in the country after a long stint as Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr Kituyi has joined the race to the State House. More power to him!
Many have opined that he is precisely what Kenya needs; a break from the usual political types. His straight talk and grasp of economic issues, both local and global is refreshing. As is the fact that even after years of serving as both MP and Cabinet Minister, he left without so much as a whiff of scandal, a rarity in Kenyan politics.
Should Kituyi go all-out in the race for the presidency in 2022, he will find himself up against Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and, once he comes out unequivocally, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. These are formidable political adversaries with a vast array of resources between them. For Kituyi to register on the political scale, he will have to do things differently and package his new wine in new wineskins so to speak.
It will serve the good doctor well to find out why the Jubilee administration has been an abysmal failure on many fronts. Should he care to look into this, he will realise that the Jubilee bubble burst because it was new messaging but packaged in the old wineskins. The dynamic duo of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his DP presented themselves as the digital generation. However, under their dispensation, the economy has contracted, democratic space has shrunk and corruption with its attendant nepotism, tribalism and crony capitalism has reached its zenith.
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Whoever takes over from Mr Kenyatta will inherit a country broken both fiscally and in spirit. Kituyi’s gifts and experience in economic matters would be taxed to the fullest should he be that person.
He would have to come up with a customised Marshall Plan to redeem Kenyans from their present state of privation. Further, he would need to have the prescience to anticipate what direction Kenya ought to take. It has been said that the Jubilee administration went on a borrowing spree, counting on the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuel in Turkana County to pay off public debt. What myopia! A bear run on global oil prices has rendered the extraction of Turkana’s reserves economically unsound. Then the world has reengineered the electric motor, making fossil fuel-driven internal combustion engines to face extinction in the near future.
Kituyi will also need to have a counter to the Hustler narrative of the DP. Put together as a people-centric approach to national development, it has gathered massive traction across the country and appears unstoppable. Political analysts have posited that this narrative is old hat and that Raila has used successfully over the years, fashioning himself as a champion of the poor. The DP has stolen Raila’s thunder by appropriating for himself this narrative. Kituyi will be constrained to come up with a new approach that sounds more attractive, no easy feat given the relatively short time to the elections of 2022.
Both the DP and Raila are reported to have formidable war chests dedicated to their campaigns for president. The DP shows no signs of slowing down even when State subventions due to him are curtailed, ostensibly, as austerity measures. Raila, on the other hand, has recently, according to media reports, purchased no less than four helicopters and state of the art media vans for his campaigns.
To compete with them, Kituyi may recourse to new ways of fund-raising that appeal to a more youthful demographic cohort. Such means as crowdfunding will definitely find resonance with the growing urban educated mass. Or he may appeal to his well-heeled international friends from his days at UNCTAD. Having hobnobbed with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma among others, it may not be too far-fetched to imagine that he may have access to their funds.
There is one immediate challenge Kituyi faces. He fulfils the biblical John 4:44 aphorism of a prophet not being without honour except in his own country. Kituyi, feted across the globe, has been talked of derisively in his own native Bukusuland. Will his appeal, as fresh new wine, overcome the old established order that reduces political savvy to no more than contributions and fancy speeches at funerals? Interesting times these are!
-Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst