How Uhuru can secure his legacy

Tuesday November 28 2017

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has a golden opportunity to secure his legacy if he can live to the commitment he made to Kenyans on Tuesday.

His repeated call for the respect of law, national unity and peaceful co-existence are fine texts that lift the spirits of a nation so polarised along ethnic lines.

However, the challenge is turning them into reality.

And the examples were glaring.


While he was spelling out his priorities and rooting for national healing, the police were ruthlessly beating up opposition supporters and tear-gassing leaders.

The brutality increasingly displayed by the police when handling the opposition paints the picture of an antagonistic and vengeful government.

Such elicits more vengeance and negates any effort towards reconciliation.

The President must rein in the police, as this is damaging the reputation of his administration.


Quite often, political leaders make lofty pledges in public, but turn around to do the exact opposite because they hardly believe in those ideas.

Past experience has taught us to be cynical.

President Kenyatta’s first term marked an era of generation change and had all the markings of transformative leadership.

But once in office, it degenerated into a polarising administration, stifling dissent and fighting independent groups such as the media, civil society and faiths.

It became ruthlessly inward looking and sought to muzzle constitutional institutions like the Judiciary and the Legislature.

Corruption, mismanagement of public resources and non-accountability killed the hopes of many.

However, we note President Kenyatta’s own admission that he has learnt a lot from his first term.

In his plan of action, he has declared total war on lethargic and sneaky officers in public service.

Conversely, he is rooting for transformation and reorientation of the public service to deliver and make a difference in the lives of citizens.

This problem is legendary and cannot be uprooted through mere decrees but a systematic approach, which includes setting targets, monitoring them and punishing failures.

Public officials caught stealing from national coffers or engaging in unorthodox practices must not only be sacked, but also face the law.

In the raft of promises, one that must be prioritised is reinvigorating the economy that has taken a slump in recent years due to many factors, including negative politics.

Poor economic management characterised by imprudent borrowing has contributed to the current woes.

These factors are within the sphere of control of the presidency and he must deal with them.

Plans to provide universal healthcare, offer free day secondary education from January and enhance infrastructure development are quite progressive.

But he must also tell us how they will be funded.


Equally, we acknowledge the move towards full regional cooperation through elimination of non-tariff barriers like visa requirements.

However, more clarity is required in terms of execution.

President Kenyatta must confront the political question that threatens to tear the country apart.

Already, he has sent out signals that he wants to reach out to his opponents to reconcile the nation.

But he must initiate concrete processes of national dialogue informed by real desire for change and devoid of encumbrances of hangers-on that thrive in a divisive environment.

His success will depend on his ability to bridge the ethnic divide, weed out corruption, transform public management and entrench the rule of the law.

Respect for institutions such as the Judiciary, Parliament and county governments as well reining in errant agencies like the police will determine how history will judge him.