The symbolism of this story has the potential to be a game-changer in the fractured and mercurial relationship/dynamics between two of Kenya’s more storied tribes – Kikuyu and Luo. By reaching out to the young 2nd Former at Highway Secondary School and offering Mr. Daniel Owira “full education sponsorship up to the university level,” the president is holding true to the adage that “to him that much is given, much is expected.” Luke 12:48.
Beyond just offering to pay for Daniel’s education, Mr. Kenyatta “also assured Daniel’s mother, Ms Rose Owiyo, that he would revive her business” and “support Daniel’s elder sister Susan, who works as a volunteer assisting girls in the slums.”
The cynic in me is tempted to and can indeed make a compelling argument that the politician in Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta is doing this as a photo-op and for publicity given his poor showing AND standing with Daniel’s tribe – the Luo. I can also argue that for Mr. Kenyatta, a man with a net worth of several billion shillings, paying tuition and living expenses for the lad to attend a school classified by Wikipedia as “a provincial day school” i.e. a 2nd/3rd tiered institution of higher learning, while supporting the young man’s family (mom and sis) in the slums of Nairobi, is akin to an ordinary Kenyan giving a couple of shillings to one of the many beggars/street urchins running around in downtown Nairobi! Finally, I can make the claim that this deed is a “one of;” a “one time” random act of kindness that while worthy, does little to solve the problems/issues young Daniel’s tableau illuminated – the frustrations of job-seekers who travel from their rural homes to Nairobi after completing their studies not to mention the stark disparity between Kenya’s haves and have-nots or its historically imbalanced regional development.
The above-mentioned notwithstanding, Mr. Kenyatta’s action towards young Mr. Awira and his family is perspicacious on several fronts. The optimist in me sees Mr. Kenyatta’s offer from the following perspectives:
1. A magnanimous act; to deserving and needy humans. A self-proclaimed Christian who littered his campaign with so much religion and religious symbolism that I thought the Republican Party had indeed opened itself to Blacks; Mr. Kenyatta is doing for the least of his brothers and sisters thereby serving the Lord and embodying the teachings of Matthew 25:40.
2. A savvy and adroit political move. A Kikuyu reaching out to a Luo, a Kenyan of one tribe reaching out to a Kenyan of a DIFFERENT tribe can only beget good things given the specifics of this story! The innocuous and nondescript relationships between Kenya’s 40+ tribes is just that – random, everyday and commonplace. On the other hand, given the animus between said tribes; animus that (a) was on full display during the PEV of 2007; indeed has been demonstrated repeatedly over the years, (b) was vividly evidenced by the voting patterns in 2013, and (c) is embodied in the tribal chauvinism that is mirrored in cyberspace – the anonymous underbelly of any society, maybe, just maybe this move by Mr. Kenyatta is the tipping point in efforts to assuage said animus.
3. A timely move given what, in my opinion, is the single most important obstacle facing Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate Mr. Ruto – the charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague. As jingoistic and hubristic as the president’s “Jubilant” supporters may want to be since their candidate’s victory, the specter of facing Ms. Bensouda at the ICC continues to cast a gloomy pall over their celebration since fulfilling the prophecy of the felled Mugumo Tree. The president’s continued efforts towards reconciliation between the tribes thereby the addressing a key element at the heart of the PEV in 2007 – tribal animus – should be looked at kindly by the world’s court (and its principal benefactors America and Great Britain).
4. An act whose symbolism, especially as evidenced by the apparent bonhomie between Mr. Kenyatta and young Daniel during the tour of State House, tells young Mr. Owira that the presidency and the State House are not as unattainable nor as sacred as someone from the slums of Nairobi may think; actually as some of the pompous bloviating sycophants around Mr. Kenyatta make it to be! (Think the impact of Barack Obama’s presidency to black boys).
5. A “feel-good” story that brings together, in a worthwhile union, the two extremes of the country’s various demographics: The rich and the poor, Kikuyu and Luo, privileged and under-privileged, youth and wazee etc.
Like I mentioned in a previous posting titled Getting His Groove? President Kenyatta Fils finally appears to be standing on terra firma as the president of the entire country – in words and in deeds. I will argue that POK (President of Kenya) has made some moves that continue to earn him goodwill with the very voting bloc he needs beyond the usual (regional) suspects. It is goodwill that will go a long way in making Mr. Kenyatta’s presidential mandate more national in appeal. Whether it is walking hand-in-hand with his erstwhile opponent and nemesis Raila Odinga, towards the gravesite of the former Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Mr. Okuta Osiany , at the event held in Nyando, the very heart of Kenyatta’s opposition or telling Daniel that he is now one his “sons” and reminding him, like any father would to, to make sure that he gives him (Mr. Kenyatta) his report at the “end of every term,” the president is definitely endearing himself to this Kenyan.
Well Done Mr. President! Well Done!!