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Uhuru's legacy is peace

No president can really hope to initiate as well as fully implement any far-reaching change in this country.

In Summary

• No president can really hope to initiate as well as fully implement any far-reaching change in this country

• And any Kenyan president who keeps these satanic forces at bay – as Uhuru has done – deserves our gratitude

Uhuru legacy
Uhuru legacy
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

I am not sure why our third president, Mwai Kibaki, is mostly forgotten now, while his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi has rarely been out of the news in the 17 years since he retired.

In any event, if you were to ask any average Kenyan what he or she thinks of as Kibaki's legacy, most likely they would speak of the greatly improved road networks.

A more thoughtful person would speak more generally of improvements in public infrastructure. For it was not just the national network of roads that were improved under President Kibaki. One other network was likewise greatly improved: the supply of clean drinking water.

 

And as the recent cholera outbreak in various parts of the country reminds us, the availability of clean water for drinking and general household use is a central requirement of effective public health policy.

Before the Kibaki presidency, everything to do with water was controlled by an all-powerful Ministry of Water. But under Kibaki, there was a very effective devolution of water supply services through the creation of regional water boards.

However, the really fundamental change which occurred during the Kibaki presidency is, oddly enough, credited not to Kibaki, but rather to the former PM Raila Odinga. It is Raila who has variously been called “the father of the new Constitution” or “the father of devolution”.

But here is the thing: Both these signal achievements of the post-Moi era – the improved roads and the new Constitution – were actually initiated while Moi was president.

It was Moi who first announced (in the early 1990s) that he believed the country needed a comprehensive review of the Independence Constitution. And admittedly, such was his reputation for political cunning that many assumed that he probably had some hidden design in all this, which only time would reveal.

But the political opposition (and Raila more than most others) took up this call for a new constitution and did not relent until some 15 years later – lo and behold – we did indeed get a new constitution.

And those Kenyans who had long yearned for decentralised government found their prayers answered in the new political structure that provided for devolution.

 

Likewise too with roads. For most of the early decades of Independence, road construction projects were effectively weaponised. They were often the key to promoting the fortunes of a politician who found favour with His Excellency. And a means of teaching a lesson to those who “dared joke around” with the President.

With every corner of the country pleading for better roads, the serving Minister of Works was usually just a puppet. It was the President and his inner circle who decided which constituencies were to get new or better roads. And which rural voters were condemned to seeing their cash crops rotting in water-logged fields, as their local roads turned into treacherous muddy rivers with each rainy season.

It was the creation of the Kenya Roads Board as a semi-independent body which put Kenya on the path to more rational policies and priorities in road construction. And though we only saw the fruit of this during the Kibaki presidency, the KRB itself was the creation of the Moi government.

What does all this have to do with the legacy of our serving President Uhuru Kenyatta?

Well, my point is that all progress is incremental.

No president can really hope to initiate as well as fully implement any far-reaching change in this country.

Short of being a dictator unencumbered by term limits, a president has to be content with having finished the work started by his predecessor; and in starting a few things which will be finished by whoever comes after him.

In the interim though, even as we await the promised prosperity, the president must ensure that there is peace.

For something we all know, but generally do not like to talk about, is the potential for genocidal violence that lies waiting beneath the surface tranquillity of our country.

This is what can destroy our country in a way that mere corruption cannot.

And any Kenyan president who keeps these satanic forces at bay – as Uhuru has done – deserves our gratitude.