LONG-TERM VIEW

Why Uhuru's legacy is already secure

It is his virtues that will be remembered in the long run

In Summary

• Consider Moi, for instance, he was treated shabbily when he handed over to Kibaki.

• But now is yet again treated with the deep reverence that he enjoyed in his early days as President

Looking back on the historic transfer of power from the outgoing President Daniel arap Moi, to the newly elected President Mwai Kibaki, back in December 2002, it is undeniable that Moi was very shabbily treated by the partisan crowd gathered for the ceremony.

Here, after all, was that rarest of political creatures – an African president who was willing to hand over power to an unreconciled political rival.

For his willingness to put country above self (and there can be no doubt that Moi would have been happy to rule for another decade or so) Moi faced a barrage of screams and chants at this event, all very unflattering of his 24-year rule.

The icing on that cake was when clumps of mud were flung in his general direction by the hysterical crowd at the end of the ceremony.

But look at him now.

Barely a week passes, but one delegation or another turns up at Moi’s Kabarak home to extend their good wishes, and to have their visit immortalised on TV. The more recent visits have largely been about the paying of condolences over the tragically premature death of his eldest son Jonathan. But even before that, there was no shortage of politicians eager to make the pilgrimage.

First, I would say that it has nothing to do with the so-called ‘Big Four’ national priorities, however laudable these may be in and of themselves. Given the timing of the proclamation of these Big Four, it is perfectly obvious that they were originally intended as a strategic diversion.

Of these politicians, only a minority have been accorded the opportunity to see him. While a large majority (prominent among whom has been the Deputy President Dr William Ruto) have been repeatedly frustrated in their efforts to step into the Kabarak residence and genuflect before the retired president.

Thus, although it is considered “un-African” to speculate about the death of a man while he is yet living, I would all the same venture to suggest that a state funeral of Churchillian magnificence awaits Daniel arap Moi, as and when he is gathered unto his forefathers.

In short, as Shakespeare wrote in his play, King Lear, “the wheel is come full circle”. And Moi is yet again treated with the deep reverence that he enjoyed in his early days as President, and before the brutal crackdowns on his political opponents started in earnest, about seven years into his presidency.

There is a lesson in all this, on this issue of presidential “legacy”, currently much debated as applies to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

First, I would say that it has nothing to do with the so-called ‘Big Four’ national priorities, however laudable these may be in and of themselves. Given the timing of the proclamation of these Big Four, it is perfectly obvious that they were originally intended as a strategic diversion.

The timing coincided with a period of national turmoil following the 2017 general election, with the opposition denouncing the reelection of the president as a brazen fraud; the Supreme Court affirming the accusations made by the opposition by ordering a new election; an elaborate attempt at secession being carried out in broad daylight with “People’s Assemblies” in opposition zones voting in favour of just such a move; etc.

In addition, the Uhuru-Ruto government had by then already acquired a reputation for presenting the country with a series of high-profile projects which promised much but delivered little.

The popular schools’ free laptops project ended up as a massive embarrassment. And in time we would see the standard gauge railway and the Galana-Kulalu million acres irrigation scheme also join this humiliating list of projects which were either outright failures, or else of dubious benefit and extravagant cost.

It is the rule in politics, that when faced with such mortifying failures, the best thing to do is to change the topic. Or, as communications expert put it, “create a new narrative”. That is what all this talk of the Big Four was initially intended to achieve – and which it did, very successfully.

Nonetheless, taking the long-term view, I believe that history will judge President Kenyatta kindly.

And next week I will explain why although like all previous Kenyan presidents Uhuru will continue to face endless criticism while in office, it is his virtues that will be remembered in the long run.