ETHNIC APPOINTMENTS

Sweeping nepotism, tribal hiring in government should be a crime

The norm is for the victorious president to name into his Cabinet and key positions qualified individuals who helped him or her get elected.

In Summary

• It is unacceptable to have nearly every position in every office from the top to the bottom filled with members of one or two ethnic groups.

• Tribal appointments are (a) not all bad but (b) the ones that are wrong and evil are where our energy should be focused.

There is very little understanding of how other ethnic communities live, as tribal identity is linked not just to geographic specificity, but also to economic opportunity
TRIBALISM There is very little understanding of how other ethnic communities live, as tribal identity is linked not just to geographic specificity, but also to economic opportunity
Image: STAR

For anyone who has met President Uhuru Kenyatta in person or engaged him in a conversation, you have confirmed what everyone who has says about him — he is intelligent, affable and witty.

The President also has no tribal bone in his body, at least none going by how he treats friends in his circle who are not from his tribe.

Uhuru’s personality is the type who when they trust you, you can do no wrong so long as you remain loyal to them. Be or show any disloyalty as several Jubilee expungement casualties would attest, there is no harder kick they cannot deliver.

But, as a tribalist, many of us can defend him to say he is not.

No doubt some of you are aghast at my making that statement but it is true.

Sure, you can point to the heavily Kikuyu-overloaded appointments in government rivalled only by Kalenjins, thanks to the marriage with Deputy President William Ruto that is no more.

That is where it gets patently problematic, but a closer examination of the issue easily reveals that tribal appointments are (a) not all bad but (b) the ones that are wrong and evil are where our energy should be focused.

To the winner  goes all the spoils, so goes the saying that aptly describes what you find in every country’s political playbook.

In advanced democracies, where political ideology is clearly defined and usually represented in a two-party system such as the UK and the US, it simply means the winning party gets to fill all appointive positions in government.

Thus, when Democrats, for example, win the presidency, you can expect all political appointees to be from the party and vice versa.

Ahough President Donald Trump has taken this to an extreme to have his daughter and son-in-law as his most trusted aides with oversized responsibilities they are unqualified to have, that is not the norm.

The norm is for the victorious president to name into his Cabinet and key positions in government qualified individuals who helped him or her get elected.

As a matter of routine, these individuals are always going to be from the same party the president belongs to, though occasionally they may hire from other parties.

That is what "to the winner goes all the spoils” is all about.

However, in Kenyan or African politics for that matter, the principle is not the same.

Yes, you can expect, and, indeed, presidents do hire as ministers and senior members of the government from within their winning parties and among those who were instrumental in their victories—real or stolen.

But, given winning parties are nothing but tribal groupings, those hired in top positions always end up coming from two or three tribes that formed the winning coalition.

Most importantly, given that all elections save for one (2002) have been stolen or claimed to have been rigged, each president must have his tribesmen in key government positions to make sure he is not jettisoned.

Even in cases where being ousted in a coup or being killed is not a concern, a president is more likely to feel more comfortable to have men and women from his ethnic group in key or sensitive positions.

That is normal and is to be expected. I would thus not fault Uhuru for having men and women from Mt Kenya region in such positions.

What is unacceptable — and we should all demand that BBI brings this to an end — is having nearly every position in every office from the top to the bottom filled with members of one or two ethnic groups with tokens from all other groups.

That is wrong. It is evil and it must come to an end.

President Kenyatta has repeatedly said one of the reasons he and Raila Odinga want to have BBI implemented is to address electoral mischief and lack of inclusivity in government.

The way BBI should address this is to make nepotism and tribalistic or ethnic hiring in government criminal offences.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator