By Kibe Mungai
I was not yet born in December 1969 when Kenya held its second general election, but reading Odinge Odera’s wonderful biography My Journey with Jaramogi, it is not easy to shake off the feeling that the August General Election is 1969 Mark II. The fall-out between Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga, coupled with the assassination of Tom Mboya in July 1969, as well as the proscription of Odinga KPU in October the same year were the explosive mix that defined the count-down to the 1969 election that, for better or worse, transformed the character of the Kenyan State and its politics.
The high-stakes politics of 1966-1969 between Kenyatta and Odinga resulted into the political banishment of the latter into an oblivion so debilitating that even the return of multipartysm in 1992 could not rescue him. Paradoxically the August 8 General Election, which Raila Odinga has christened Nane Nane Revolution, is ominously shaping up as a grand rematch between Jomo and Jaramogi’s sons of the 1969 General Election that never was, given that KPU was banned and Jaramogi detained before the Election Day. Unlike in 1969 and largely because of the 2010 Constitution and Raila’s charismatic leadership of Nasa political brigade and its fervent supporters, there is no underdog in this election in three major respects.
First, whereas Uhuru is the incumbent the reality of devolution is that ODM’s control of at least 20 county governments has considerably blunted the advantages of incumbency this year. Second, Raila certainly packs a heavier political punch than Uhuru, which is precisely why last year he single-handedly forced the disbandment and reconstitution of IEBC and, this year, successfully intimidated the Court of Appeal into uphold the High Court judgment that strips the Commission of altering constituency level results. Third, on account of the separation of powers and bifurcation of political authority under the Constitution, the Kenyan state is susceptible to neo-fascist attacks.
Simply stated, it is a serious understatement to say that this year’s presidential race will be a high-stakes contest between the sons of Jomo and Jaramogi. The stakes are existential in nature and they revolve around three issues. One, the future of the Second Republic established by the 2010 Constitution is at stake. Two, the survival of a democratic society free from intimidation and blackmail is at stake. Three, the survival of a country with equal citizenship rights whose people are free to live and own property anywhere within its shores is at stake. Given these high stakes, here are my reasons why the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta is vital to the preservation of Kenya’s Second Republic, a free society and a prosperous market economy.
Uhuru’s e-election will secure the Constitution and the Second Republic
After the promulgation of the new Constitution Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, then Minister for Medical Services, celebrated the establishment of the Second Republic with these memorable words:
“The president will no longer be that feared monster whose edicts Kenyans loathed to listen to at one o’clock, sacking people left right and centre and promoting incompetent cronies. There is no doubt that the checks and balances that we always wanted in government are enshrined in this constitution ushering in the Second Republic. Kenya is now home to a fundamental law of the land where individual as well as people’s rights are respected and promoted by the Bills of Rights… The Constitution of the Second Republic is not of the same hue as the independence constitution.”
Anyone who agrees with Nyong’o should be afraid about Nasa’s vow to radically change it to reintroduce the hybrid system of the First Republic. For the record, President Uhuru campaigned for the 2010 Constitution but his deputy William Ruto opposed it. However, to the credit of the Jubilee Government, during its first term it has implemented the 2010 Constitution and refrained from advocating constitutional changes. In fact, Jubilee has not expressed desire to do so in case it secures re-election. On the contrary, the Nasa manifesto commits its government to push for radical reforms in order, inter-alia, to create the phantom positions promised to some of its co-principals.
In my book, the present generations of Kenyans have no moral authority to keep tinkering with the Constitution to satisfy their whims. In all honesty, we must do our utmost best to make it work otherwise the Second Republic is bound to abort. On this score, Uhuru’s re-election will be a boon to the Second Republic.
The contest is between a Devil we know and and an unscrupulous Devil
In Kenya’s short history, unscrupulousness has often passed off as real politics, thereby negating the ethical and principled leadership envisaged under Article 10 of the Constitution. In real terms, leaders must mean what they say and do what they say. This is not the case when it comes to Raila. Six years ago Raila wrote in the Kenya Affairs issue of May/June 2011 thus:
“On Friday, 27 August 2010, the old order died and a new one born in our country. Our imprisonment in the colonial constitutional dispensation is over. The Imperial Presidency that the post-colonial regimes created is now buried in history. A grand new republic – Kenya’s Second Republic – is born. The constitution of our new Republic frees and empowers every citizen… Our constitution creates a state in which citizens are the centres of the moral universe… I am convinced this is one of the best constitutions in the world.”
Looking back, it seems lawyer Miguna Miguna was right that Raila only supported the 2010 Constitution because he believed that the presidency was his for the taking in the first election under it. Now that Uhuru was elected the first president of the Second Republic, the 2010 Constitution is now too toxic and unacceptable to Raila. Given the centrality of a constitution in the affairs of any State, can anyone claim to truly know and understand Raila if he can have such diametrically opposed positions on a matter of such grave national importance within seven short years? In my view, unless and until Raila gets power we can only delude ourselves that we know him. History records the folly of nations that have experimented with politicians of Raila’s mould!
It is too soon for Kenyans to allow a return to tyranny
As the son of Jomo, a protégé of Moi and self-confessed admirer of Singapore’s late leader Lee Kuan Yew, Uhuru Kenyatta has no fibres of a liberal democrat but he is certainly not a tyrant in the mould of the Philipine’s Rodrigo Duterte, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Congo Brazzaville’s Jean Sassou Nguesso or Tanzania’s John Pombe Magufuli. Yet, by all accounts of his friends and foes, Raila has all too often manifested disturbing traits of a tyrant. This reminds me of a recent comment in Kiswahili by an ordinary Kenyan after the Court of Appeal decision in the returning officers’ case which I translate thus: “If Raila is this powerful as an opposition leader, how will it be when he becomes president?”
Slowly but surely, liberal democracy is on the retreat across the world, including in Great Britain and the USA. In so many countries, leaders who thrive in differences and manipulation of ethnic or racial fears and insecurities are on the ascendancy. This worrisome trend does not portend well for the survival of free societies that respect equality of citizens and inherent dignity of all human beings.
In Kenya, Raila is the undisputed master of trading in fears and insecurities and that is the true foundation of the Nasa Coalition. Such politics are humus for a return to tyranny in Kenya although the wounds of Nyayoism are yet to heal.
Uhuru is the bulwark against fascism in Kenya
There is no denying that since Kanu was voted out of power in 2002 no politician enjoys broader and deeper support among disparate ethnic and class segments of Kenyans than Raila. The oft cited reasons for Raila’s attraction to the good, the bad, the charlatans and the deplorables of Kenya are three: first, Raila is a strong leader; secondly, only him would be able to cut the Kikuyus down to size; thirdly, only him has the passion and ability to mobilize his supporters to achieve the various things that polite society calls “historical justice”. In such a Kenya, the State would intervene to reduce the rent and fare charged by landlords and matatu owners. Moreover, community interests would trump individual rights and the freedom of contract, particularly in land transactions, would be curtailed or abolished.
Fascism is the historical word that describes ideology of a powerful state capable of mobilising millions of people to create a stable nationalist society and mixed economy, which simultaneously reject capitalism and socialism whilst advocating for the untrammeled authority of the state to intervene in the lives of citizens. Raila’s Orange movement at the core of Musalia Mudavadi’s political decoy called Nasa bears all the hallmarks of fascism.
At its ecstatic moments the charged, militant supporters that Raila’s political rallies attract bear all the hallmarks of the crowds that ushered Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to power. It is only through the establishment of a fascist society that Raila would deliver Canaan to these crowds if he comes to power. In the result, everyone who dreads the horrors of a fascist society is advised to vote against Nasa.
Uhuru is for national stability
Reference to the Eleventh Parliament is something Kenyans should be proud of because it signifies that despite all the tumultuous political happenings, Kenya has managed to remain a stable democracy where elections – free or partially free – have been held roughly every five years since independence.
In many ways, Kenya is a stable country because the politicians who have risen to the top echelons of power have generally treasured the preservation of the Kenyan project more than personal political fortunes. As example, during Kenya’s darkest hours Jaramogi, Kenneth Matiba or Masinde Muliro did not advocate for secession, ethnic apartheid and divisions. This may not be the case for too long if the tone and inclinations of the Raila brigade is any guide.
For starters, Raila has refused to publicly declare that he will concede defeat unlike Uhuru who has stated so and in fact did it in 2002. Furthermore, he has claimed a voters strength of 10 million out of 19.6 million voters which effectively rules out that Uhuru can be validly re-elected in his eyes. Listening carefully to the rhetoric of Raila and his supporters the political omens for Kenya’s stability do not look good. Make no mistake, no democracy can deliver the promises that Raila supporters expect him to deliver.
Uhuru better symbolises national unity
There is merit to the criticism that Jubilee has not been inclusive enough in allocation of key public jobs. However, this criticism is often exaggerated and taken out of context. It bears noting that Jubilee derives its mandate from a narrow ethnic base, which means the President is politically beholden to less diverse interests than should be the case. In politics, it is clearly not feasible for any community to vote against a given presidential candidate and expect that not to reflect in allocation of political jobs.
Thus stated, Article 131 of the Constitution provides that the President is a symbol of national unity, shall promote and enhance the unity of the nation and promote respect for the diversity of the people and communities of Kenya. In this regard, there are three things to say about Uhuru. First, discounting Jubilee’s narrow political base, Uhuru has done fairly well in presidential appointments and distribution of national resources. Personally, I believe Coastal Kenya is the beneficiary of the highest impact projects during Uhuru’s presidency. Second, unlike Raila, Uhuru is not inclined to make aggressive or hateful rhetoric and threats against members of any Kenyan community. Third, unlike Raila, there is no Kenyan community that considers Uhuru an existential threat to its citizenship rights, human dignity, economic security and peace of mind. Consequently, I have not doubt that in the formative stage of the Second Republic Uhuru is a surer bet for national unity than Raila.
Uhuru is a better deal for Vision 2030 and Kenya’s economic advancement
From an objective standpoint, whereas Uhuru cuts the profile of a methodical, focused and committed politician when it comes to economic issues, Raila is an impulsive and opportunistic economic animal who is worryingly ambivalent towards the free-market enterprise system and respect for property rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. Given that Kenya’s relative economic fortunes in Africa owe a lot to the fact of being Eastern Africa’s bastion of capitalism it should be obvious that Kenya’s economic dominance is dependent on having a President who is competent and committed to steer its economic ship in the turbulent seas of capitalism.
In Jim Bailey’s historical Kenya: The National Epic, he observes that despite political upheavals under Jomo Kenyatta, “Kenya maintained a steady rate of growth, comparable to the growth rates in most western industrialised countries… Kenya, because of its stability, proved attractive to foreign investors who contributed to the expansion of the manufacturing sector and to the boom in tourism, the latter becoming Kenya’s second largest source of foreign exchange. During these years great strides were made in the expansion of education particularly in the secondary and tertiary levels, and in the provision of public health services”.
In my view, the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution marked the settlement of the political upheavals and conflicts that characterized the First Republic. The singular mission of the Second Republic should be consolidation and enhancement of Kenya’s economic progress in order to secure the prosperity of its entire people. Indeed, at the birth of the Second Republic President Mwai Kibaki wrote:
“During the time Kenyans have privileged me with leading them, I have thought we can easily become a middle-income country. Kenyans have what it takes to succeed. We are hard working…industrious… disciplined. We now have erected two pillars to secure our advancement to the next level. These are Vision 2030, the economic blueprint for our take off and the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the legal foundation for our emerging prosperity. The third pillar is Social Vision. We must change our values and our attitudes to reflect a transformative ethos.”
As the first President of Kenya’s Second Republic, Uhuru has performed commendably well in consolidating Kenya’s position as the regional investment and transport hub which in the long term will support a viable manufacturing industry. Already Kenya is one of Africa’s favourite destinations for foreign direct investment and the enterprise of its people has placed its companies in good stead in African markets. In all fairness, Uhuru is better placed than Raila to maintain this momentum of economic progress.
Uhuru is better placed to leverage on Kenya’s geo-political advantages
In the long-term, Kenya’s maintenance and enhancement of its status as the regional economic top dog will be dependent on three factors. First, Kenya must secure full pacification of its Coastal and Northern Kenya Counties in order to allow the development of the Lappset Corridor, the oil and minerals sector and marine economy. Second, the development of the manufacturing sector and transnational transport corridor requires secure property rights in Nairobi and its metropolis. Put differently, in the Nairobi metropolis, there is no future for peasant agriculture and nomadic pastoralism. Third, a powerful and capable state is necessary for Kenya to leverage on its geographical location and strategic political importance as a viable, working democracy.
These three factors require a leader who is reconciled with Kenya’s history and status quo. All too often, Raila has engaged in political rhetoric, which suggest that he is not averse to promotion of regional autonomy that directly translates into a weaker national government. Such an approach is bound to promote primordial politics in Coastal and Northern Kenyan counties that invariably will prove counter-productive to Kenya’s geo-political ambitions. It bears emphasis that whilst devolution is a good thing because it keeps regional politicians busy with provincial ambitions and economically happier, Kenya’s economic progress ultimately depends on a competent national government to build a capable and effective state to pursue the ambition of a regional economic top dog. In this regard, Jubilee’s record within a four years’ period puts Uhuru in a commanding position.
Uhuru is the people’s prince
For better or for worse, Raila is Kenya’s most polarising politician and this reputation has not been helped at all by his attraction for our people’s worst instincts, divisive elements, dark forces and deplorables in our society. This is precisely why Railaphilia across half of Kenya is countered by an equal measure of Railaphobia in the other half. In the wake of the 2007 political meltdown and the divisive ICC trials of Jubilee principals, the Second Republic deserves to be led by a leader who does not scare the hell out of any significant group of Kenyans.
Truth be told, friends and foes are generally agreed, for good or bad reasons, that the likes of Mbiyu Koinange, Nicholas Biwott, William Ruto and Raila Odinga seem to scare the hell out of so many people. This has never been the case with Uhuru and Musalia Mudavadi. There is something else about Uhuru. Amongst the political class, he is generally perceived as an easy going, easy to get along person and amongst ordinary Kenyans he scarcely attracts hatred and spite. Uhuru is the people’s prince. Some time back a former cabinet minister told me President Moi skipped Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti in his succession plans because they were not good people in the sense of not having roho safi. It seems to me that Kenya’s Second Republic deserves to re-elect the people’s prince with roho safi.
Uhuru is a uilder, not a destroyer
Since he led his National Development Party (NDP) brigade into a political marriage with KANU in 1998 which ultimately scuppered the Moi succession plans, Raila has developed a reputation of a destroyer and he seems to relish it.
Let us pose to reflect on evolution of Raila’s reputation as a destroyer. Within months of the Narc government, unending quarrels and conflicts became the order of the day leading to the abortive constitution-making process in 2005. After the 2007 presidential elections, he spearheaded the disbandment and replacement of the Samuel Kivuitu-led Electoral Commission of Kenya. Following the formation of the Grand Coalition government, Raila’s obsession with protocol issues and power-sharing nuances turned statecraft into a permanent warfare. This notwithstanding in 2010 Raila was the lead campaigner for the new Constitution, which he is now committed to repudiate its core elements and replace them with a system that would serve his ambitions better. Whichever way I see it, nation building and state making cannot sustain this kind of destroy and build schemes for too long.
The trouble with the Nasa power arrangements is that it will forment greater mayhem and political destruction in the event of a Raila win. Writing in The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli observes that a prince who comes to power through the favour of his fellow citizens (read elections) must destroy those who helped him ascend to power. In his words, “A man who becomes prince with the help of the nobles finds it more difficult to maintain his position than one who does so with the help of the people. As prince, he finds himself surrounded by many who believe they are his equals, and because of that he cannot command or manage them the way he wants. A man who becomes prince by favour of the people finds himself standing alone, and he has near him either no one or very few not prepared to take orders.”
However, there is such a thing as creative destructive and so history may remember Raila in positive light for all his destructive politics. But it seems to me that at this moment Kenya needs a builder to heal its many wounds and repair its broken house. Uhuru deserves to be re-elected because in four years of his presidency, Kenya’s glass is certainly half full.
Writer is a public law practitioner; firstname.lastname@example.org
Purchase the Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine at only Kshs 350