“˜MOVING ON’: WELCOME TO KENYA INC – By John Githongo
When the Supreme Court decided against those who were contesting the election of Uhuru Kenyatta anticipated jubilation broke out in Jubilee’s ethnic strongholds. Gloom overcame other parts of Kenya. This was the natural reaction and continues to play out. The new government’s supporters both within and outside Kenya urged everyone to “˜move on’ and focus on the future. Essentially, forget the past, accept the new reality, find your space in it and get on with life.
LETS MOVE ON’ INTO UNCHARTED WATERS
Kenyans are a resilient lot and many have done just this.
To many, however, the “˜let’s move on’ clarion has literally come to be understood as an abuse, in part because they have yet to come to terms with the legitimacy of the President and Deputy President in particular. This is because the election was so ethnically divisive; it sunk the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) like a canoe into which too many bundles of cash had been thrown; and, for many, it moved one of the new constitution’s most heralded novelties – the Supreme Court – from the winners’ podium into a sort of governance pit-latrine. The anger fuelled by this and the sense of helplessness to do anything about it is existential and therefore durable. In the 1990s, and first decade of the new century, flawed elections were held every five years but Kenyans “˜moved on’ because in the horizon there was end to the Moi era; there was a new constitution; there were so many reforms coming into realisation after the elections. Only to find, as a character in Francis Imbuga’s masterpiece “Betrayal in the City” so memorably put it, “It was better while we waited. Now we have nothing to look forward to. We have killed our past and are busy killing our future”.
2013 was the transition of multiple tyrannies, both real and imagined, from the tyranny of tribal numbers, to the terrorism of peace, to the blatant dictatorship of “˜mta do?!‘ It will take some time too, to come to terms with this present dispensation for the many of considerable credibility, intellect, analytical expertise and patriotism who honestly believe the election was stolen; stolen massively and stolen well. For now, the constant demand to let the nation “˜move on’ seems to have bought Kenya the “˜peace’ so many so badly crave. However, it is not unlikely that the reputation of the gaggle of “˜experts’ and their institutions who opined authoritatively on a process that is still fraught with so many questions that refuse to go away will fall into serious doubt. It will also force many of us to admit that over two decades of good governance advocacy, anti-corruption work, constitution building, democracy promotion, all costing billions, has seemingly brought us backwards. For, as I mentioned some weeks ago, as a nation-building exercise, the election failed badly.
These contradictions comprise the uncharted waters into which the Kenyan ship has sailed. For the constitutional reality is that having properly sworn their oaths of service, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are Kenya’s President and Deputy President, notwithstanding the encumbrances of the ICC, or the existentially divisive election and its aftermath. It is a reality that we’ll have to make work for Kenya’s sake.
UHURU FINDING HIS GROOVE
Indeed, distracted by their considerable excess political baggage, it has been interesting to watch what have been some initial deft moves by the UhuRuto duo. Kenyatta’s regular emphasis on the fact that he is the President of all Kenyans is spot on. He now needs to get all Kenyans to believe him. Similarly, his attending events in opposition strongholds, has been just the kind of move the country needs. He should try camping out at the State Lodge in Kisumu for a week or two to build on this. Then those in Kakamega, Mombasa etc. One of the good things about being flat on your back in terms of expectations vis-í -vis national vision is that the only way you can look is up. That’s the theory. It is especially important now as a wave of insecurity sweeps across the country, ironically, in some of the very Counties where violence had been anticipated around the elections.
Under the previous constitution 90 days was all it took for a head of state to consolidate power to the point that their overall direction in terms of governance was clear. It’s been slightly more convoluted for the Jubilee team partly because the constitution doesn’t allow the same discretion their predecessors enjoyed. Still, a couple of trends have become clear.
First, the “˜private sector’ is clearly the primary client of this administration in terms of policy. We are now Kenya Inc. and open for business – in itself actually genuinely exciting for many. Indeed, outside strongholds in the Rift Valley and Central Province, it is in the boardrooms (not all but a critical mass of them) where Jubilee’s victory has been most enthusiastically celebrated. Some populist pledges have been made, but there appears to be an understanding especially within the wing of our private sector with the most reactionary tendencies – the owners of really large illegally or irregularly acquired tracts of land and the service sector – that these won’t be allowed to get in the way of business. To their credit too, the Jubilee government’s leadership has been careful to avoid any statements that may be misunderstood to mean that an anti-corruption campaign is in the offing. This, it can be argued, is one of the necessities when the intellectual underpinnings of governance are outsourced to the private sector, in what is actually a sophisticated condition of entrenched crony capitalism for lack of better words. This typically has its accompaniments – and graft is one of them.
The President and Deputy President have presented images of corporate efficiency of the vein in which they ran their impressive election campaign. Even the propaganda has been dished out with a slickness that is without precedent. The defining policy imperative underlying it all is the ICC of course, which helped forge the central tribal alliance that in turn came to define Jubilee. So critical is this self-imposed reality that it has discombobulated diplomacy – internally and outside Kenya. Indeed, it caused Kenya’s Representative at the United Nations to pen a request to the Security Council that was so bizarre, some at first questioned its authenticity.
RUTO: THE REAL “˜HALF LOAF’
The second issue that stands out about the new administration is that even though he is called Deputy President, William Ruto, is actually, for all intents and purposes, a co-principal. Indeed, he is more of a co-principal than Raila Odinga ever was under the old order of the post-2008 coalition. While ODM had settled for “˜half a loaf’ in political terms, what they seem to have got was a couple of slices, larger and noisier motorcades and the chance for some at individual self -enrichment on an unprecedented scale. This latter attribute, some analysts argue, softened them up to the point that they were unable to prepare properly for the 2013 poll; they weren’t hungry enough. Their opponents on the other hand, were tremendously focused.
After all, they were facing the successor to the Nuremberg Court that brought down the likes of Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Slobodan Milosevic and others whose exploits tilled the earth that gave birth to the state of Israel and continue to be the subject of PhDs, academic tomes, novels, documentaries and sombre public holidays in countries that consider themselves the most civilised in the world. Ruto delivered and has firmly gripped his half loaf as evidenced by his own statements and the line-up of Cabinet Secretaries that were rolled out.
Those who doubt his grip and the extent of his leverage need only consider the fact that despite the alliance of “˜peace’ and “˜reconciliation’ between the Gikuyu and the Kalenjin that now prevails – Rift Valley IDPs aren’t racing back to farms from which they were evicted in 2008. All of us know, quietly and without too much fuss, that we aren’t quite there yet; we aren’t even close. It is such inconveniences that interrupt the “˜move on’ narrative for now. One Gikuyu resident of the region not far from where Ruto was born summed it up best when he told me: “Everyone was happy that Kenyatta and Ruto were on the same side during the election because it reduced the chance (likelihood) that Ruto’s Kalenjin supporters would attack us… Here on the ground the mistrust is still strong.”
Incredibly, considering its credibility challenges, in this environment even the much maligned TJRC is having difficulty handing over its report to the President. In some sections of the media, it was reported that they might have been thinking of “˜massaging’ the chapter on land. IDPs, for their part, are not shareholders in Kenya Inc. just yet. They remain part of those either too angry to move on or are simply suspicious of the hand they have been dealt and are waiting to understand what it really all means. Time, they say, heals all things. When the clock is working.
John Githongo is the CEO of Inuka Kenya Trust fka Zinduko Trust and head of Twaweza in Kenya. This piece first appeared in the Nairobi Star.