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January 22, 2019

President Needs A Council Of Elders

President Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/FILE

With his presidency in mid-life crisis, President Uhuru Kenyatta has received so much advice from men and women of goodwill and otherwise, that it must be mind-boggling.

The recent visit to State House by former head of state Daniel Moi in the company of once ‘total man’ Nicholas Biwott proved that matters have come to a head, even as other leaders urged him to disband his ‘ineffective’ Cabinet and rein in runaway corruption.

The Cabinet secretaries that the President and Deputy President cobbled together with shirtsleeves rolled up may have privately shone in their former fields, but were mostly nonentities in the public eye and have continued to be so despite their dockets. Although the constitution does not allow them to play politics, they should work hard, deliver and make marks in their ministries. Few have shown the knack for hard work and statesmanship and are instead holed up in their red-carpet offices where they slumber on million-shilling couches.

Those that have woken up appear to be part of what a prominent lawyer calls hunters after the antelope that Kenya has become. This bunch, Mr President, is not helping you run this country and are instead sharing part of the antelope. The time may have come for you to show them the door. Unlike the first and subsequent independent cabinets, Kenyans do not know their names and dockets of these fellows, which means they do not work for them.

Then there is the large group of tech-savvy advisers in your office. Many, Mr President, view this ‘Western’-style setting as part of the gravy train of people amassing as much as they can in the shortest time possible to retire early and join active politics – and you should trim their numbers.

When you met Moi and the ‘total man’, hopefully they reminded you of the ‘wise’ old men who the former President courted in every region during his reign. Although some of these old men were just court jesters, they kept the President up to speed on everything that was happening in their localities. Despite the dictatorship that maintained them, these old men in a way helped to keep the fabric together.

Today, the fabric is being torn apart from all corners and to mend it and for reconciliation to take root, President Uhuru needs (aside from the advisory committee on corruption), a council of elders that would bring Kenyans together. Men and women who can bring different factions and communities to the table and reason with them for the sake of the nation.

Tech-savvy advisers have failed in this respect and ‘reconciliation’ in public rallies is working more towards inflaming passions instead of cooling them and, hence, the need for level-headed elders who are out of the rat race.

This group of respected elders from every region, will travel the country, listen to the people and tell the leadership what is irking the citizenry and how this can be tackled. This group may not be digitally knowledgeable, but with the counsel of years, they could ensure the country does not go to the dogs. Properly facilitated for a fraction of what those around the presidency in advisory roles are earning, the elders can engage opinion leaders at the grassroots, keep the presidency informed and ensure peace is maintained.

Elsewhere, the President must crack the whip and ensure his house is in order. It is democratic for members of the ruling coalition to disagree on certain issues, but they must not be seen to be acting as a divided house or washing their dirty linen in public. Although the opposition as currently constituted may just be a reactionary bunch, one cannot ignore their herd mentality when one of their own is in the slightest trouble.

Whether accused of hate speech or election offences, Cord would stand with their own in public, even if they may in private have the wisdom of advising them against such behaviour. They also jump at the slightest mistake made by your coalition and there are Kenyans listening to them.

So, Mr President and Deputy President William Ruto, use your ‘thingira’ wisely, take time to regularly talk to your troops in Parliament and befriend them, even if the friendship is not all that sincere. Get rid of the baggage in State House and Harambee House and bring on board people who will add value to your presidency. I, of course, wish you luck on that part about befriending parliamentarians.


Njonjo Kihuria is a freelance journalist. [email protected]

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