Our leaders need a Kang’ata moment to speak truth to power without fear

We now have no excuse to continue praising the kings, even when we know pretty well that they are wrong

In Summary

• The Kang’ata of the 20s has just re-emerged through his letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta about the unpopularity of BBI in Mt Kenya region.

• It must have taken him a lot of courage and conviction to decide to tell the President the truth in an era where telling the truth is so costly.

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata.
Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata.
Image: COURTESY

I joined the University of Nairobi in my early 20s.

When we were joining the university, Irungu Kang’ata, who was then the Students’’ Organization of Nairobi University vice chairperson, had just been expelled by the senate for leading students in a strike.

Even in his absence, his presence loomed large in all the University of Nairobi campuses. I did not pay a lot of attention to students’ politics then but I remember the soft spoken gentleman whose voice carried a lot of conviction. Those days, university riots were the order of the day.

The crop of student leaders then was driven by the desire to have better welfare unlike today when they have fallen to the trap of the politicians. When I come to think of it today, the issues Kang’ata and his irk were agitating for are valid today as they were those days.

The Kang’ata of the 20s has just re-emerged through his letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta about the unpopularity of BBI in Mt Kenya region. It must have taken him a lot of courage and conviction to decide to tell the President the truth in an era where telling the truth is so costly.

Our leaders do not like hearing the truth. Because most leaders cultivate a culture of fear, victimization and intimidation, their followers have perfected the art of telling them what is convenient as opposed to the reality on the ground. For that simple gesture, Kang’ata must have meditated and reflected on the consequences. Telling the king is naked is not a task for the faint hearted. It is more convenient to be at peace than to be right.

If Kang’ata has done it, we now have no excuse to continue praising the kings, even when we know pretty well that they are wrong. Our political leaders need a Kang’ata moment. A moment when they can be told the truth and live with it.

Going by the backlash his letter got, especially from the President, it will take some courageous leaders to rise to the occasion and face the truth head-on. 

Our leaders are living in denial. They long disconnected with wananchi. Since they are surrounded by sycophants, they are fed with lies and manipulations. They hardly face the fact. Telling them the truth is a risky venture because they soon turn on you and before you know it, you are a victim. The lack of capacity to take feedback by our leaders is sinking our institutions.

Ashford Gikunda, Masters student, UoN