Kenyan Economy National Politics

How president Uhuru alienated himself from his ardent supporters

Newly re-elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta reviews a guard of honour during his inauguration ceremony for a second term at Kasarani Stadium on November 28, 2017 in Nairobi. Kenyatta vowed to be the leader of all Kenyans and work to unite the country after a bruising and drawn out election process that ended with his swearing-in. / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images)

He may have meant it well, to cool down political temperatures, but President Uhuru’s decisions to bring back political rejects into his government through the creation of the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) and as board chairmen has been a curse that with time has haunted his government to date.

The creation of the Cas post came after the contested 2017 election. The post, not anchored in any law was created as a fall back position by the jubilee government to appease losers in the 2017 elections who had campaigned heavily for him and lost the election for being against the wave in opposition strongholds. With no clearly defined duties, the CAS nominees were meant to be principal assistants to cabinet secretaries, but in the end, the nominees have turned to busy bodies whose only task has been to pose in front of cameras and read speeches on behalf of cabinet secretaries. So controversial has been the role of CASs that acrimony and power tussle within ministries was reported between the CASs and the cabinet secretaries as some CAS’s felt more superior, than the CSs they were supposed to assist, because of their political clout.

Years after the establishment of the post, no legal legislations have been passed to anchor the position in law, but most disturbing has been the continued increase of siluch political posts in an economy that is struggling under a growing foreign debt.

The appointment of political rejects as board chairmen of the various government parastatals has also raised a lot of questions about the seriousness of the Jubilee government in entrench good governance since 2013 when they took over power. So divisive has been the issue that at one time when a 90 year old former vice president was nominated as a member of sports, art and social development fund, the president tried to explain that whenever he appointed youthful individuals to positions, they had let him down and so he had to turn to the retired for results. But appointing a 90 year old to a sporting board is something that never made sense at all.

Over time, the same people he has turned to for results have turned out to be corrupt and of questionable integrity. For example, the unfolding KEMSA scandal has seen the former Muranga senator Kiambu Gitura who was appointed to chair the KEMSA board entangled in the entire corruption scandal with allegations that his relatives were awarded tenders and that he received kickbacks from companies that were awarded tenders.

Similar cases of political rejects brought back from the cold and appointed to plum positions only to be kicked out a few months later over integrity issues include the case of former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and former sports CS Rashid Echesa.

Interestingly, uhuru is in second and final term in office and not eligible for reelection. There is believe that his inclusion of these political leaders in government was meant to give him peace and avoid a lame duck presidency by controlling politics of the 2022 election. But some of these actions have yielded nothing but a sense of alienation for the majority youth. Together with other actions and in actions by his government, especially regarding the handling of the Corona virus pandemic, rising cases of unemployment and the rampant theft in government, Uhuru and the Jubilee government have only succeeded in building a rebellious youth.

There is no question that the growing support of the deputy president by the youthful generation is an act of liberaion: libelion against the system, the system they are bitter about for the fire sulituayion of the economy. Back in 2013, uhuru received unquestionable support from this group, his promise of a better Kenya was something we all yearned for. Years later, as much as the economy has expanded and our infrastructure got better, the big question is whether these results have trickled down to the same people who formed the backbone of support of the Jubilee government. The reality is no. Youthful Kenyans are more poor, the government has without any sense of responsibility increased taxes year in year out thereby raising the cost of living, and families in our city and forgotten villages sleep without food as others are kicked out to the streets because they can no longer afford to pay rent. I remember at one time the president wondering live in front of the cameras why people are crying there is no money, and yes Mr. President there is no money, covid has even made it worse. And instead of approaching these people with dialogue, your agents have exemplified arrogance and a strong hand in handling your very supporters and citizens whose rights you swore to protect and defend. Whether the president will succeed in winning back their trust as he approaches the twilight years of his leadership remains to be seen.