The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In world politics, no single statesman has been as dominant and influential as America’s 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also popularly known as FDR (1883-1945).
FDR was a cripple who overcame the effects of a debilitating polio attack not just to become a lawyer and leading politician; he subsequently became the leader of the Democratic Party, built a New Deal Coalition that realigned American politics after 1932 and ended up being the only person who has ever been elected four consecutive terms in the USA. FDR remains the only American President to serve for more than eight years.
In November 1932, FDR triumphed over the incumbent president, Herbert Hoover, with a bouncy popular song, “Happy Days are Here!” at the deepest end of the Great Depression. To millions of American voters, FDR was the epitome of decisiveness, perseverance, courage, determination and unflinching optimism.
FDR used these traits to renew the American national spirit and rallied not just Americans to confront the Great Depression and both Germany and Japan during the Second World War; he also worked closely with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to rally the Allied Forces to victory.
In his first 100 days in office, which began on March 4, 1933, FDR spearheaded major legislation and issued a plethora of executive orders that instituted the New Deal, which comprised a variety of pragmatic programs designed to create jobs for the unemployed, economic recovery and growth and targeted financial reforms aimed at regulating the Wall Street, banks and the transportation sector.
FDR refused to allow his sorry physical human condition and the tragic ravages of the Great Depression and the Second World War to dampen his spirit and incapacitate him.
Unlike any American President before or after him, he would cheerfully use a wheelchair and drive himself around, waving to the bemused crowds.
To FDR, brain power and strength of character were the only determinants on success or failure. Throughout his four consecutive electoral victories and administrations, FDR was singularly focused on the needs of his citizens and how he could address those challenges; not how much he, his relatives, cronies and friends could extract from the public.
But he also understood – long before the ferocious onslaught of modern PR and image consultants – that in politics more than in any other occupation, perception counts as much as good deeds. So, he went beyond optics and public theatre.
He plunged headlong into his duties; conceived of and initiated substantive new policies, legislations and executive orders that sought to use both the poverty and hunger created by the Great Depression and the need for personnel and munitions by the Second World War.
By 1942, FDR’s pragmatic policies, far-sightedness and decisive actions resulted in the reduction of unemployment to two per cent. Once this happened, the relief programs he had initiated to prevent the unemployed and economically disadvantaged from falling to the bottom of the pit were terminated. The industrial economy he had built using the war effort grew rapidly as millions of Americans moved to new, well-paying jobs in war centres.
Asked to explain how he had done it, FDR quipped: “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on…In politics, nothing happens by accident; if it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
Is the current governance crisis in Kenya planned?
About 365 days ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deputy President William Samoei Ruto were sworn in after leading the Jubilee Coalition to victory over the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).
Like FDR before them, the Jubilee team campaigned using a bouncy song: “We are the Digital Duo!” They were chic. They were breezy. They were young. And they were dazzling. But unlike FDR’s “Happy Days are Here;” the Jubilee tune had two distinct messages: TNA’s “I Believe” and URP’s “Kusema na Kutenda!”
Many are convinced that TNA’s “I Believe” was more poetry than a concrete policy shift and commitment. But it also contained a germ of idealism. It urged Kenyans to trust and believe in themselves.
It appealed to our sense of nationalism and patriotism. Implicitly, it was a moral exhortation for acceptance and support presumably based on their dilemma over the ICC cases. As far as political election messages go, TNA’s was the real McCoy. Short, crisp and memorable.
On the other hand, URP’S tune was controversially premised on ‘record,’ ‘history’ and ‘integrity.’ URP promised “delivery on their word”. It boldly said, ‘Our Word is Our Bond.’
Implicitly, it sought to assure Kenyans that they would focus on "action, not mere words". Putting it in Swahili, which is more widely spoken than English, wasn’t just populist; it was pragmatic. Real politic at its best.
As Mr Ruto frequently and eloquently put it: “We know where we are coming from. We know where we are. We know where we are going. And we have the plan on how to get there!”
In other words and on balance, at its core, the Jubilee message appealed to Kenyans’ fear of grandiose but unfulfilled electoral promises. They strategically and tactically avoided long-winded statements that their opponents excelled in.
During their campaigns, Mr. Ruto frequently reminded Kenyans of Mr. Raila Odinga’s penchant for stories, myths and parables. ‘Mr. Kitendawili’ is how Mr. Ruto used to sarcastically refer to Mr. Odinga.
And based on poll numbers released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission alone (remember that there was no rerun, notwithstanding Cord’s persistent claim that the election was stolen), that message seemed to have registered with the majority of Kenyan voters.
But the post-election honeymoon is long gone. One year later, Kenyans must start to seriously interrogate what the Jubilee team truly believed in, what they promised and what they have done to accomplish those pre-election undertakings.
The Jubilee team could and should have exploited the overwhelming support and goodwill of millions of Kenyans that voted for them to quickly implement on most of their substantive campaign promises. As George W. Bush once said, one has to be prepared to cash the credit one has earned.
The question Kenyans must ask is this: Has the Jubilee Coalition been too rambunctious and quick with their mouths when reacting to sentiments by their critics and political opponents but too slow with substantive policies, legislations and appropriate executive orders?
When the most memorable legislation after one year in power is the “Conjugal Rights Restoration Bill” – or whatever the Jubilee dominated National Assembly has called it – doesn’t somebody in the Big House think that the train may be derailing? But as the street chant goes: it isn’t over until it’s over.
The first pillar of the Jubilee Coalition – 'Umoja' (unity)
Jubilee’s core campaign platform was ‘unity;’ unity of the nation, of its peoples and of purpose. Out of these triple unities, Jubilee’s record on the latter is spectacular. However, its performance or success on the remaining two is still work-in-progress.
By most accounts, the unity between the Kalenjin and Gikuyu communities is almost complete. However, based on the Digital Duo’s frequent trips to Central, Rift Valley and Coast regions, the unity of the nation and between and amongst most Kenyan peoples remains a daunting task. The same holds true regarding their reconciliation promise
Although critics saw the unity song as a cynical political ploy aimed at deflecting attention from the 2007 post-election violence and the subsequent crimes against humanity charges at 'Den Haag', the reality on the ground is that unlike the 2007-2008 crisis, the Jubilee unity has seen members of the Gikuyu and Kalenjin communities working together rather than killing each other. That’s positive.
Regardless of their ‘motives,’ the concrete reality – at least among the two large communities – has been so significant to national stability and healing that it would be irresponsible for us to either ignore or downplay it. The challenge now is to extend that message to the 40-plus Kenyan communities.
This has to go beyond rhetoric and utterances at partisan public rallies. We need new policies to undergird substantive initiatives, which should be unveiled in all parts of the country without any further delay.
All Kenyan communities must genuinely feel that they have equal stake not just in voting for their leaders; but in being valued and treated as stakeholders in their government. The Digital Duo must embrace all Kenyans regardless of their political affiliations.
Yet, to do that, Jubilee needs to begin by fully implementing its “affirmative action” commitments to the under-represented and the marginalised groups. Before they are implemented, however, we need to see them reduced to tangible programs.
I’m doubtful that the government has met its commitment of 30 per cent of all public sector appointments being reserved for (qualified) women. I’m aware that the constitutional requirement of 30 per cent of either gender in public sector jobs has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as subject to incremental implementation.
Be that as it may, the government still needs to ensure that it has the face of Kenya in all its operations and institutions. Aesthetic appearances or strategic window dressing will not do. Neither will clever prevarications be sustained.
The authoritative political publication, Africa Confidential encapsulates President Uhuru Kenyatta’s one-year paradox in its March, 2014 lead article, “A Year of Living Precariously”.
It argues that “Kenyatta’s government is now deep in a war with an unexpected foe – itself. The President and his allies are fighting battles against the bureaucracy inherited from the previous government but are not prevailing.
The conflicts are whittling away at the President’s authority and preventing his government from carrying out even some of its basic functions […] Crime, inflation and grand corruption have risen sharply in the last year…”
One year ago, President Kenyatta hesitated in naming his cabinet. The explanation then was that the new constitution required ‘vetting’ of potential appointees before they could be named.
(Forget the fact that some of the most senior people in government neither applied nor were vetted for the positions they hold). And when he eventually named his cabinet, President Kenyatta astounded many observers by his deliberate preference for what critics have perhaps too harshly termed "green, unknown and invisible cabinet secretaries".
We are told by the Controller of Budget that the delay in naming the cabinet slowed down the implementation of government projects and denied ordinary Kenyans the delivery of essential services in the first half of last year.
For Kenyans who have endured many decades of decadence, incompetence and institutional grand corruption, those new faces could – and should have – heralded fresh and untainted orientation in public service.
With a few exceptions, the trend was largely replicated when principal secretaries were appointed. Those appointed looked young, qualified and outwardly ‘professional’. These appointments were praised within Jubilee as ‘technocratic’. It seemed like the ‘Dynamic Duo’ were on to something spectacular.
Kenyans are known as an optimistic and hopeful bunch. So, it wasn’t entirely unexpected when they exuberantly embraced those appointments and giddily started expressing genuine hope that Jubilee would quickly sort out their perennial socio-economic problems and set them on the path to Canaan.
Because of this – and also by virtue of the fact that the Jubilee administration had been elected under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, which had structurally reoriented the governance system - most Kenyans had perhaps naïvely hoped and expected to see a clear distinction between the governments of President Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki I (2002-2007) and the Grand Coalition Government on the one hand, and that of the Jubilee Coalition, on the other.
However, as African Confidential posits, “Expectations of an economic take-off have dimmed since the cheers that greeted Kenyatta’s disputed election victory.”
The publication’s principal thesis is buttressed by President Kenyatta’s recent public admission that “corruption cartels have touched his own office but he blames the Deep State, the cabals of Securocrats who were so powerful during Moi’s rule…”
However, many observers are asking: Who are these Deep State and Securocrats that are so powerful and invincible that they can undermine the President without fear of reprisals? Why can’t the President firmly deal with those trying to scuttle his administration’s agenda?
By publicly expressing his frustration and implying that he is either reluctant or unable to dislodge these elements, the President, unintentionally, is creating despondency among the general public.
More disturbing are signs that ethnic polarisation and discrimination are still pervasive in the public sector. Political, economic and military power is still too narrowly concentrated in a few hands that share a common culture and language.
That’s anathema for national cohesion and reconciliation. It is also inconsistent with the centrepiece of the Jubilee pre-election promise. Consequently, this is an issue that deserves urgent and decisive attention from the Digital Duo.
Keeping Kenya safe and secure
This was Jubilee’s second phase of the first flagship platform. It was one of their centre-piece undertakings. Being a law-and-order team, they promised Kenyans a safe and secure country. Secure borders. Territorial integrity. Personal security and safety.
They promised to equip and modernise the security forces. They undertook to ensure that the security forces adopt a “Buy Kenyan procurement and maintenance sub-contracting policy to support domestic businesses” – whatever that was intended to mean.
Local newspapers have reported that the President plans to “shake up the NIS.” That, too, is in the Jubilee manifesto, plus much more. They have promised not just to shake things up at the NIS; they are also to “enhance and invest in the specialist Anti-Terrorism Unit with the professional expertise to tackle groups such as Al-Shabaab.”
As well, Jubilee is to “pass a new Prevention of Terrorism Act to give the police and other security forces the powers needed to keep the Kenyan population safe, at the same time ensure that no Kenyans are unfairly targeted or harassed.”
Technology is to be deployed in dealing with cattle rustling and other forms of livestock theft. Police pay and conditions of service are also be addressed.
In other words, Jubilee has both decent and ridiculous promises in their manifesto. And of course, the opposition wasn’t any better. They, even more than Jubilee, promised things everyone knew they had absolutely no intention of fulfilling.
But it’s the Jubilee team that’s in power; not the opposition. Therefore, given the systemic, institutional and persistent abuse by the Kenyan security agencies of the powers they currently have together with their unmatched record in graft and the thousands of innocent Kenyans who perish year after year from excessive use of lethal force, I shudder when I read of a promise aimed at ‘giving them more powers.’
Since April last year, there have been more than a dozen ‘terrorist attacks’ within our borders. Countless innocent lives have been lost in Baragoi, Turkana, Tana River, Bungoma, Nairobi (Westgate and Eastleigh), Mombasa, Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir – name it.
Yet no one has offered a rational explanation on why there have been too many security breaches. Nor has anyone taken responsibility for any of these national tragedies. Migingo Island, too, is still under foreign occupation - an annexation to be precise.
Does any reasonable and thoughtful person believe that assassinating Muslim clerics and executing their supporters no matter how radical they might be will solve these serious security problems?
Anyone thinking this way should check the latest data on the casualties on both sides in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those figures should teach us that force and violence do not bring peace and stability to a country, a region or the world.
Make no mistake about it: Barbaric butchering of Muslim clerics in broad daylight within court precincts will bring even more suffering, tragedies and deaths to Kenyans.
With the increasing insecurity in the country, the ever-cascading grand corruption, the high unemployment, the increasing ethnic polarisation and discrimination of society, the grinding poverty levels and the inter and intra institutional inertia, lethargy and perpetual conflicts affecting the National Executive, Parliament, the County Governments and the Judiciary, we would be considered delusional not to admit that things are getting worse by the day.
As such, Kenyans of goodwill have the right to begin a structured and focused debate on whether the existing conditions are deliberate or coincidental.
Second pillar of the Jubilee coalition – 'Uchumi' (Economy)
To be absolutely fair, Jubilee’s economic platform is too extensive and complex to be adequately analysed in one newspaper column, leave alone in a few paragraphs. Secondly, I’m not an economist.
Therefore, my brief summary here only captures what we lawyers prefer to call ‘head notes.’ Jubilee promised ‘growth and development’ through an ‘an enterprise economy.’
They promised to create a Single East African Market (SEAM), totally phasing out tariffs and barriers among East African Community (EAC) member countries and moving towards the creation of a single regional currency.
Presumably, they would manage that through the full cooperation of the rest of the EAC countries. They targeted a 7-10 per cent growth rate in the first two years. That’s a very tall order, considering the current tanking numbers.
In addition, one million new jobs for our youth were dangled. But cleverly, that grand undertaking didn’t come with a definite time frame. If Jubilee fails to deliver, they can simply turn around and say, “Where did we promise that it would be done in five years?”
But they also promised to “cut waste [and] fight corruption so that public resources are spent wisely and reduce the public deficit so that the Government spends more money on services instead of paying off Kenya’s debts.” Again and again, the Jubilee manifesto states how it would fight corruption in order to release capital for economic growth.
An industrial revolution is to be unleashed through manufacturing, improved energy infrastructure and the promotion of alternative energy sources so as to create the adequate and cost-effective energy supply regime necessary for industrial take-off.
They promised to keep the exchange rate stable and control the flow of money into the economy in order to lower interest rates and keep inflation in check.
Entrepreneurship was to be ‘encouraged’ through the expansion of the economy and the promotion of industries. Again, this was in order to create jobs.
Is the government doing enough to solve our problems?
There is general consensus among independent economists that Kenya’s economy is in a pickle. Unemployment is at its all-time high. Inflation is over the roof.
Even though Kenya hasn’t developed a capacity to credibly track and publish new job and unemployment numbers, most Kenyans know that life has become unaffordable. Basic commodities are beyond the reach of the ‘working poor’ leave alone the unemployed and the under-employed.
Grand corruption hasn’t been tackled. The process hasn’t even started. Even the President and his deputy have publicly complained about the power and reach of grand corruption.
Ironically, according to media reports of April March 25th, 2014, ‘the Government is either planning or thinking of paying more than KES 1billion to “Anglo Leasing debt.” The Government or the media actually called it ‘a debt’ thereby legitimising it.
It’s as if the country needed to be prepared – mentally and psychologically – for the ‘inevitable;’ their daylight robbery. The newspapers quoted the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich, saying that the “money to settle the debt would be factored in the second supplementary budget estimates expected in parliament in May.” So, there goes Jubilee’s commitment to eradicate graft.
Legally, any debt founded on fraud is void. As well, the principle of equity demands that one can only approach a court for relief if one has clean hands.
By this time, no one can reasonably argue that the Anglo-Leasing scum was a ‘clean’ or legitimate business deal or contract from which the people of Kenya have to pay astronomical sums of money to its architects.
To assert, like Mr. Rotich is reported to have done that we – the citizens of Kenya - are going to be forced to pay for this grand larceny, is nothing but “legalistic argle-bargle,” to quote Justice Antonio Scalia’s recent stinging dissent on the same-sex marriage case at the US Supreme Court.
Jubilee has promised to “clean up the corruption mess” through a variety of means, chief among them is “by giving the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) the power to prosecute corruption cases as happens in other African countries.”
They also suggested setting “up local anti-corruption boards at county level with the power to refer cases to the EACC or to the Director of Public Prosecutions; ban anyone convicted on corruption charges from working in Government, in any public sector job; enact the necessary legislation so that Kenyan companies found guilty of corrupt practices will be liable to have their assets frozen by the courts; ban foreign companies found guilty of corrupt practices from operating in Kenya; introduce an automatic freeze on the assets of anyone indicted on corruption charges (with appropriate judicial approval); and to put an end to Parliamentary immunity from corruption charges.”
These may seem like fairly practical and straightforward mechanisms. However, the establishment of “county boards to refer cases to the EACC” sounds like an attempt to create yet another layer of bureaucracy in a country choking with this elegantly named but inefficient institution.
What the country needs is a clear and an unambiguous indication right from the top all the way to the bottom of the national and county bureaucracy that the fight against corruption is a serious and concrete commitment by the Jubilee administration.
We need to see very high profile arrests, prosecutions, convictions and long prison sentences handed out to corruption Popes. Concomitantly, the Government should start impounding and confiscating all public assets that have been stolen and embezzled. Asset freezes must follow. These are standard fair worldwide.
A good starting point would be the repossession of public land in urban centres, road reserves and water towers. The assiduous implementation of the Ndung’u Report as well as that of past parliamentary and judicial inquiries would generate immediate benefits for Kenyans.
Ultimately, however, Kenyans will only have full confidence on the Jubilee promise to “clean the corruption mess” if they see a serious and consistent effort to deal with the known culprits behind both Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing scandals.
Kenya is a rich country. We have one of the most beautiful topographies in the region. Our beaches, wild life and mountains are a marvel. We have diverse cultures and languages, which are repositories of creativity, innovation and production if harnessed and utilised appropriately.
A large chunk of our people is fairly well educated and disciplined. We are also resourceful, hard-working and optimistic, which is the material that modern industrialisation is made from.
Nature and God also gifted us with the second largest fresh water lake in the world. On top of that, we recently discovered yet another untapped reservoir of fresh underground water in the Turkana delta where we also have adequate oil for commercial production.
We have enough arable land and water to transform Kenya into a food secure and net agricultural exporter of processed tea, coffee, sugar, milk products, petroleum products, and etcetera.
And to crown it off, our nascent system of democracy has been fairly stable. There have been no successful coup d’état’s. Even though we have experienced more than our share of ethnic chauvinism and ethnic cleansings punctuated with extra-judicial killings and political assassinations; Kenya is still a Sunday Choir compared to some of the conflicts we have witnessed around the world.
In other words, there is no reason why the Jubilee administration hasn’t seized the moment and attempted a drastic reorientation of the country.
If, as FDR opined, nothing in politics happens by accident, we need to know who are responsible for designing and perpetuating these national problems so that we can solve or at least effectively mitigate them for the betterment of most of our citizens.
However, even if these ailments are accidental, we need to urgently diagnose their root causes so that we can treat them. A country that is perpetually haemorrhaging cannot develop.
Mr. Miguna Miguna is a lawyer and author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya. [email protected]