Ruto, avoid shadowboxing cartels and just name them

It would save everyone a lot of time if he said who is obstructing his policies

In Summary

• Beating around the bush harkens the time Moi alluded to betrayal by a Minister

Image: OZONE

When you live long enough, echoes of the past are often heard in the present. 

As I write this on the first morning of the New Year, 2024, I have been reading the various accounts of President William Ruto’s New Year’s Eve address to the nation.

I would have watched live but for many years now, I have tended to retire early on New Year's Eve in a bid to start the New Year fresh and alert. 

In his speech on Sunday night, the President talked up his government’s achievements but blamed delays and obstructions to policy implementation on what the Daily Nation reported was “resistance from individuals with vested interests, including State officers and others who have benefited from an unjust system”.

The President didn’t name these “individuals” and perhaps he had reasons not to. But I wish he would just name them, call them out and take whatever action is possible against them, instead of engaging in political shadowboxing, which just makes a show of tackling a problem or opponent while avoiding any direct engagement.

The President’s barbs at unnamed, shady cartels financing litigation against his administration's agenda, took me back to a period that would have been 40 years ago last May.

That was the “Msaliti” or “Traitor” phase of the history of Kenya, when various fingers were pointed and insinuations made and a matter that could have been dealt with in a day, and saved a lot of time, was dragged out for weeks in the name of political theatre.

For those readers who were not around 40 years ago and who may have never heard of the Msaliti saga, it all began when Kenya’s second President Daniel arap Moi, who just nine months earlier had survived a coup attempt that had shaken him into a paranoid state, announced there was traitor in his Cabinet.

During a rally in Kisii on May 8, President Moi threw the cat amongst the pigeons when he charged that there was a "traitor" in his 27-member Cabinet who was being groomed by "foreign powers" to take over the presidency, and the traitor had already garnered the support of between six and eight fellow Cabinet members.

While making his traitor accusation, Moi had gone out of his way to make a statement in support of his Vice President Mwai Kibaki, who had until then been under persistent attack by people thought to be acting at Moi’s behest.

In light of the support for Kibaki, observers then figured the alleged traitor was Home and Constitutional Affairs Minister Charles Njonjo, who was known to be a favourite of foreign powers, such as Britain, South Africa and Israel. 

Nevertheless, there followed weeks of feverish speculation about who the traitor was, with Moi signalling some of his loyal Cabinet members to launch attacks on a previously unassailable Njonjo, who meanwhile pledged his loyalty and characterised the charges as a witch-hunt.

After what seemed like a month of Sundays filled with speculation, Njonjo was eventually named in Parliament as "the traitor" by Tourism Minister Elijah Mwangale.

Following this, Moi relieved Njonjo of his Cabinet post on June 29, and appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the traitor issue. However, it took until July 8, 1983 for Njonjo to be suspended from Kanu. In a single-party state, that was the road to political oblivion.

The point is, with the kind of power he had at the time, Moi could have named the foreign powers he alleged were supporting Njonjo, fired him from the Cabinet and organised for his suspension from Kanu in one day, thus saving everyone a lot of time.

Surely, the country’s security agencies know the individuals behind the cartels that are a thorn in the government’s side, and if that is the case, President Ruto should name them without fear or favour and bring them to justice. 

Such a move would make him an instant hero, even with those who hitherto haven’t been his supporters, and if the cartels fought back, it would no longer be a shadowboxing match.

Follow me on X @MwangiGithahu 

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