SURE FORMULA

For peace, Uhuru should live and live

By stifling debate, government is shooting itself in the foot; it’ll only attract rebellion.

In Summary
  • It is not practical to tell politicians to wait for the 'right time’ to politick. Being politicians, their mainstay is politics.
  • In fact in our current political system, campaigning starts almost immediately after the conclusion of a general election.

To be the head of state and government is certainly not a walk in the park. It’s a full-time occupation that demands total dedication and sacrifice. Apart from having to balance so many competing interests, the President has to contend with constant criticism and unflattering comments in the course of his work.

To survive in such an environment requires extraordinary patience, restraint and fortitude. To his credit, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been fairly magnanimous to his critics. However, recent actions by his government towards those opposed to him point to creeping intolerance and muzzling of freedom of expression.

If the President intends to leave behind a thriving democracy, he should focus on his legacy projects and not allow himself to be distracted by those not in agreement with his agenda. During his visit to Kenya in 2015, President Barack Obama in his address to Kenyans quipped that, “Democracy is sometimes messy, and for leaders, sometimes it’s frustrating.  Democracy means that somebody is always complaining about something….”

The current political tension is not because of ‘early campaigns’ as the government would want Kenyans to believe. Rather, it is because of an ill-informed strategy of trying to suppress divergent opinion using the state’s coercive apparatus.

Banning political activities of the political formation allied to the Deputy President under the guise of threats to national security and stopping early campaigns while turning a blind eye to the other formation championing the BBI will only have the reverse effect of popularising the former.

The narrative that early campaigns will derail the President’s agenda is fallacious because government projects are undertaken by civil servants. Holding a church fundraiser or a roadside political meeting atop a vehicle cannot stop a government doctor from treating his patients at a level 5 hospital or a contractor from drilling a borehole or connecting last mile electricity to villagers.

Political rallies will not stop a judge from sentencing an offender or Parliament from playing its legislative and oversight roles (and even attempting the Jerusalema challenge). Security agents should only intervene in the event the speakers utter words that contravene article 33(2) of the Constitution. The only other rationale for banning political gatherings should be on public health ground because of the pandemic.

As we approach 2022, the noise will only get louder as alignments and realignments take shape. The President should avoid the pitfall of expending vast political capital in trying to manage his succession.

Whereas the President may have good intentions in trying to bring everyone on board, in a democracy there will always be competing interests. John Stuart Mill described democracy as a marketplace of ideas. By stifling debate, the government is shooting itself in the foot since this will only attract civil disobedience and rebellion.

While championing his BBI initiative, Uhuru should also allow DP William Ruto to advance his hustler narrative without censorship. This will take away the sympathy card and allow citizens to interrogate the hustler’s message devoid of emotions.

Jubilee Party was founded on the premise of peace and reconciliation. The party’s symbol is a handshake, which signifies peace. Ironically, it is another handshake, between the President and the former Prime Minister which has brought about division and implosion within the party.

Whereas it is now clear that the camaraderie between the President and his deputy is gone, that should not be an excuse for senior government and security officials to mistreat and humiliate the DP. He is after all still the second in command constitutionally.

Just like Uhuru’s allies have been demanding respect for the President, the same should be replicated when it comes to his deputy.

It is not practical to tell politicians to wait for the 'right time’ to politick. Being politicians, their mainstay is politics. In fact in our current political system, campaigning starts almost immediately after the conclusion of a general election.

As we approach 2022, the noise will only get louder as alignments and realignments take shape. The President should avoid the pitfall of expending vast political capital in trying to manage his succession.

He should stay the course of accomplishing what he promised Kenyans and allow those interested in taking over from him to freely articulate their agenda.

Just like President Kibaki before him, he should work behind the scenes and quietly exit office when the time comes.

By disengaging from the politics of the day, the President will focus on his legacy and will be seen as the symbol of unity. He should live and let live.