In the spirit of positive criticism, it is time we had an honest chat about some peculiarities of the Kenyan public service, especially the one where the avoidance of "embarassment" at all costs still prevails. Truth be told, if there is someone who appreciates the ludicrousness of the Do Not Embarass the Government line it is the President and Commander-in-Chief himself. While the likes of Manoah Esipisu and the entire gang of protocol officers littering the corridors of the national Executive were shitting their collective pants when shoes and other missiles flew at the Head of State when he visited that dodgy Migori market centre, the President kept a cool head and later on used the fracas to gain political mileage.
If only Uhuru Kenyatta's sangfroid could trickle down to the hyper-sensitive minions in his government. It is one of the reasons why even laid back individuals coming in from their lucrative sinecures in the private sector are beginning to swan around like Arabian princes. They have been persuaded by the seniormost mandarins that they must maintain the dignity of their offices at all costs. So they surround themselves with gun-toting bodyguards, drivers, secretaries, personal assistants and a retinue of ass-kissing flunkies whose contribution to the effectiveness or efficiency of President Kenyatta's minions is doubtful at best.
I don't know if the Deputy President noticed when he was appointed to act as President when Uhuru Kenyatta went to The Hague, but the manner in which his security detail behaved left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. Of course we are aware that there are wackjobs who would not hesitate to do the Deputy President harm, but we can assure Inspector-General Kimaiyo and his National Police Service that ropes will not stop bullets or defuse explosive devices. What the police did over those two days not only endangered the lives of pedestrians, it was uncalled for and simply reinforced in my mind that our public service obsesses too much over embarassment or potential embarassment.
You can see it with the portraitisation of public offices. Under old Jomo and Baba Moi's iron-fisted regimes, it was the foolhardy that would not prominently display the portrait of the Head of State at their places of work. However, this began to change with the laid back, hands off approach of Mwai Kibaki. He would keep his dignity at all costs, but he would not demand privileges that simply created resentment. Today, in some public offices, in order to appear as if one is truly loyal and committed to the agenda of the boss, in addition to the Presidential Portrait, you will have a portrait of the man in charge and quite often that of that man's principal assistant. It is not enough to demonstrate our loyalty to the President, we must now demonstrate it to his minions and factotums.
President Kenyatta, I am sure, knows that things must change and one of the most important is that the people his government is in office for should not fear members of the public service, whether they are State officers or ordinary rank-and-file. President Kenyatta will likely trade the dignity of the office of a Cabinet Secretary or some similar Cabinet-rank official for the chance to empower the people to be true partners in national building. You can see it in his usual rapturous engagement with the people when he freaks out his security detail and mingles a little bit too freely. If only his Cabinet and the hyper-sensitive "protocol" obsessives could follow suit.