OMWENGA:Is Uhuru our Abraham Lincoln?

Defended: President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Defended: President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most admired and respected Americans who served as US President from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.

Lincoln led the US through the Civil War, saved the union and abolished slavery.

Slavery in the US was the legal system in which principles of property law were applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell human beings, mostly Africans and African Americans, as form of property. This despicable system existed there in the 18th and 19th centuries until Lincoln ended it.

Ending slavery, however, didn’t mean that African Americans fared any better. Rather, as soon as Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation ending, racists in Southern states immediately embarked on passing what came to be known as Jim Crow laws designed to keep African Americans as a permanent underclass with no discernable rights.

After more than a century of African Americans suffering under these Jim Crow laws, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, landmark legislation that spurred all sorts of racial progress — from desegregating Southern establishments, to driving anti-discrimination lawsuits, to opening the doors of opportunity for the new black middle class.

Unfortunately, however, racial disparities persist to this day, despite progress being made to keep blacks a step ahead of racists breathing heavily behind them. It’s what is known as institutionalised racism that has dogged the black community to this day and now is morphing into general xenophobia.

Racism is to African Americans what tribalism is to Kenyans.

We have never had a president who, like Lincoln, had a passion and desire to end tribalism as Lincoln ended slavery. Rather, what we have had is lip service from each one of them, while perpetuating and at times making tribalism worse, case in point being Mwai Kibaki and the 2007 elections.

That may soon change, if what Uhuru Kenyatta is doing is sustained.

More specifically, it’s well within the realm of possibilities that Uhuru can finally put an official end to tribalism.

The 2010 Constitution addressed issues that have plagued our country since Independence — corruption, political patronage, land grabbing and tribalism — but you wouldn’t find a single person who can tell you all is well now with any of these issues.

In fact, some, such as corruption and political patronage are worse since the promulgation of the new Constitution or before that.

To be sure, the DPP has been making noise about ramping up the fight against corruption, and the government recently convened an anti-corruption conference. But as former Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe aptly put it, how can you address the menace when those known to be the major practitioners of the vice are sitting at the high table and addressing the same conference?

For these problems to be effectively dealt with, it would take Uhuru to do more; not leaving it to the DPP and the courts.

The concept of carrots and sticks comes to mind.

The carrot and stick approach of motivation is a traditional motivation theory that asserts, in motivating people to elicit desired behaviours, sometimes the rewards are given in the form of money, promotion, and any other financial or non-financial benefits and sometimes the punishments are exerted to push an individual towards the desired behaviour.

This approach is time honoured and is applied in every aspect of life, from home, to the work place to businesses and most effectively, in politics.

When effectively deployed, it can produce desirable results.

In politics, for example, our first president used the method very effectively to accomplish his political objectives and at times unforgivably so. His successor took the system to another level and a good case can be made a more deadly level. His successor less so but he did take political patronage and tribalism to another level.

Uhuru can effectively apply the system to end tribalism and ditto corruption as we know him making him the greatest president we’ve ever had.

Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the US