By Leonard Wanyama
Recent crises in one form or the other have placed increased scrutiny on a number of high-ranking officials such as Cabinet and Principle Secretaries from time to time. The torching of schools shone a light on the workings of Dr Fred Matiang’i in the education sector.
Loss of regional competitive edge in energy matters put Energy minister Charles Keter in the news following the Tanga embarrassment. Rising insecurity issues led to the firing of Joseph Ole Lenku while his successor, Rtd Major General Joseph Nkaissery, has been in the hot seat over treatment of protestors by security agencies.
Others have positively stood out. Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Dr Monica Juma have exemplified the high calibre that is required in the executive conduct of women in leadership. It will never be quickly forgotten how in the case of Dr Juma a male dominated Parliament roundly blocked her promotion on account of her professionalism and intolerance of their mediocrity.
However, we must remember that the appointment of many high-ranking officials was on the basis of their professionalism. This main attribute was supposed to overshadow the required ethnic and gender balancing to achieve national cohesion for legitimacy in service delivery.
Yet, in a climate in which it seems that the day-to-day operations are a form of governance by crisis, it would seem pragmatic attributes should be given more credence in appointments. This would enable developing a crop of highly efficient and non-partisan officials for whom the public will have full confidence in unlike, as the current situation is, with some.
Therefore, in inculcating pragmatic culture through public appointments, any public servant to be selected must show an awareness of inter-party manoeuvring and patronage. This is due to our unfortunate history and problems in regard to tribalism, together with the associated political or community violence.
Such an official would be aware of the necessary compromises and consensus building needed in decision-making to attain service delivery countrywide. It would mean that the individual in question has the capacity to understand the linkages of various policy actions in affecting mass politics and the associated aspirations within the country down to the sector level.
Secondly, in a country where there is a new dispensation such as Kenya, public officials should be custodians of constitutionalism, both in spirit and action. This is important in ensuring all compromise or consensus is achieved within the confines of the law. More importantly, however, it would encourage the culture of freedom and liberty that was fought for earnestly during the Second Liberation.
In particular, it would help dispel the country’s authoritarian hangover that seems to espouse the notion about how Kenya needs a degree of benevolent dictatorship. Numerous incidences have left the country traumatised at an individual and societal level, that many have come to believe in how brutal tactics quickly solve problems. Meanwhile, they forget that such actions sow dangerous seeds in the future or foment intensity of challenges being faced today.
Public officials should therefore be at the forefront of espousing a democratic culture that is confident in the state of Kenyan stability. Issues of popular unrest, losing elections, social revolution, protests and strikes should not be looked at as matters with regard to regime survival alone but as normal processes of a pluralistic society.
On the economic front, high-ranking state officers should espouse pragmatism by seeking an understanding of the country’s debatable middle-income status. This is especially due to how political matters either improve or hinder modernisation and enhancement of markets. The Kenyan debate has been dominated by discussions on the “redistribution of income” instead of truthful deliberations on the “allocation of capital” so as to spread out the tools of productivity countrywide.
A somewhat mixed economic regime such as ours must surely look to answer the challenge posed above. Therefore, for the pragmatic policy maker, the heart of policy formulation should seek harmony in economic foundations, political systems and project implementation that reduces corruption. This would spill over into guaranteeing representative electoral outcomes that reduce the level of grievances, which boil over in various ways as seen in 2007/08.
Pragmatism has to stand out from other forms of guidance such as servant leadership. Service on the basis of natural feelings to enrich the lives of others and build better organizations, and creating a just or more caring society can only be sustained by a robust sense of duty.
Such responsibility arises out of individual competency or capability and a consistent track record of reforms or improvement of the country. This should be observed whether one is within or outside of government.
Whether at a local, national or regional level, there should be a clear history of contribution to the translating of the country’s grand strategy into tangible benefits. This can be on matters of growth or development for prosperity and progress. However, this has to be on the premise of one not being disruptive in their conduct, which can only be attained by neutrality on various matters, especially the volatile tribal kind.
Overall pragmatic leadership is needed in Kenya today to deal with the sense of lethargy both on the domestic and international front. Internally, at the national and local level, the country’s development doctrine and lingo is always at cross-purposes from one constituency to the next – so much that the public does not understand the intentions the administrative and governance actions very well hence the constant disputes over legitimacy.
Regionally, Kenyans feels challenged and outsmarted by their neighbours. This is because countries within its sphere of influence are making great strides that are thereby changing the nature of Kenya’s relationship with them.
Meanwhile, instead of appreciating this, the country desperately hangs on to ideas about dominating them rather than understanding the nature of current advantages as they grow by the day. The current context of Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) puts Kenya in a much better position that does not require a hegemonic attitude towards East Africa.
A pragmatic worldview needed for service delivery, development and geopolitics could maybe be achieved through public education. This would nurture a crop of leaders who use empiricism in decision-making. They would also respect a need for a wide range of in-depth intelligence sources and comparative analysis on issues.
It would mean understanding that achieving economic prowess as the centre of development focus is not a matter of lording over others, taking advantage of them, or sneering at their existence. It is a question of pursuing of cohesiveness through economic and technological success. This would ensure political stability, military strength, cultural creativity and appeal that would make Kenya an example of ideas and competitive innovative.
The writer teaches International Relations at Riara University; Follow on Twitter @lennwanyama