The post-election/campaign tone and messaging of President Uhuru Kenyatta is markedly different than the tone and messaging during the just-concluded presidential campaign, especially immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges against him and his deputy Mr. Ruto. The president’s tone sounds more inclusive and atribal. It sound magnanimous and humble and indicative of someone who is coming to terms with the gravity of the office he now holds. In a recent visit to Mombasa, a region that voted overwhelmingly (76% vs. 20%) for his opponent Raila Odinga, The Daily Nation issue of April 26 quotes Mr. Kenyatta as saying that he wants to be “president of all (Kenyans) and work with all for (the) benefit of this nation.” 1 It is a sound bite that sounds great but is markedly different than the subtle and seemingly negative messages delivered at his campaign rallies where he spoke in a dialect spoken/understood by less than 20% of the very populace he claims he wants to work for! 2.
While it is normal for politicians to “reset” their messaging from the campaign and move towards the moderate center once the elections are over, they (politicians) come across as disingenuous when they go from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other on an issue. In the charged and divided polity that is post-2007 Kenya, an environment he helped create by running the type of campaign that his Jubilee Coalition run, Mr. Kenyatta has his work cut out out for him.
For starters, Mr. Kenyatta needs to beat the charges of crimes against humanity he is facing at The Hague, not by trying to circumvent the process, but by letting his high-priced and “foreign” legal team go face-to-face with Ms. Bensouda’s team. I want an objective hearing of the available evidence surrounding the post-election violence of 2007 by a judicial body (ICC) that is not prone to the manipulation Kenya’s judiciary is known for. I want the people who were victimized to have their day in court without fearing for their safety before and after the proceedings. If Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are as innocent as they claim to be, then the evidence will bear that out. I doubt that the ICC/West wants to be embroiled in another Omar Bashir-like situation given the verdict of the Kenyan voters; one that was confirmed by their Supreme Court. However, I hope that they (west) continue to hold Mr. Kenyatta’s feet to the fire until the (ICC) process runs its course fulfillment of the prophesy of the felled Mugumo Tree notwithstanding.
It is unfortunate that the nationalism and jingoism reflected by some comments in cyberspace prevents some Kenyans from facing the fact that the country’s institutions, the judiciary in particular, have not been free from manipulation by the rich, powerful and well-connected. It is that reality that birthed the cry “Don’t be vague, go to The Hague” and gave the country the Ocampo Six; now reduced to the Bensouda Three! And while I feel that the jingoism and tribal chauvinism will reach a crescendo if Mr. Kenyatta (and his deputy Mr. Ruto) is eventually cleared of charges at The Hague, I also believe that clearing his name AT The Hague is THE one sure way of inoculating the first government coming after the carnage of 2007 elections and the country’s supposedly “independent” institutions from charges of excessive manipulation by the hitherto “untouchable” rich and powerful personalities.
Mr. Kenyatta also needs to deal with the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) AND the land issue without the platitudinous and perfunctory “land is a means of production but not something to always fight for. Let us work together in finding a permanent solution to this problem” line from his stump speeches. To quote him: The campaigns are over, it is time to bring the country together. Let me add to that presidential appeal a special plea, a shout-out if you may, on behalf of the IDPs: It has been 5+years already; the IDPs should be re-settled!
With over 500,000 acres of prime and arable land under his family’s name, not to mention a net worth of one half BILLION dollars ($500,000,000 – Kshs. 41Billion), Mr. Kenyatta can transform said wealth into an asset, no pan intended! With most Kenyans accepting the evidence and coming to terms with the fact that the president’s father Kenyatta Pere was the “land-grabber-in-chief,” can you imagine if the president’s mother and Jomo’s 4th wife, Mama Ngina, had taken the opportunity to reach out to the internally-displaced persons she met during this photo-op by offering to re-settle them on a section of the half-a-million acres of land her late husband “acquired” instead of literally running away from the question?
The glow and honeymoon over Mr. Kenyatta’s election is fast-coming to an end to be replaced by the Sisyphean’s work of governing a divided polity. As presumptuous as this may sound, I would advise “my brother Uhuru” to dispense with the platitudes and let his actions do the talking:
STOP SEMARING AND START TENDARING!
STOP WITH THE PROCLAMATIONS AND LET YOUR ACTIONS SPEAK!!