Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Kenya's Obama.

It must surely occur to you that a Kikuyu/Kalenjin presidency is not an odd thing, right? (Kenyatta/Moi, Moi/Kibaki, Moi/Saitoti, and now, Uhuru/Ruto). What is surely unusual is that in the past, the president was the dominant partner in that relationship. Moi was dominated by Kenyatta, and he in turn, dominated Kibaki and Saitoti. In the UhuRuto "coalition", none seems to have the upper hand, presumably because each is master of his own considerable flock. It also seems very odd that both are so freakishly young for African leaders; we are used to ancients sitting atop a bloody pile of bones. UhuRuto are simply following global trends in their ambitious seizure of power and only the mean-spirited refuse to acknowledge that their youthfulness is an incredible asset for the nation.


Now, Raila Odinga may have had the most progressive ideas for the advancement of democracy in Kenya, but that point is now moot. Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto had the more compelling ideas; they did not keep banging on about the constitution or democracy or "change" and to their credit, did not claim that these were not important. But they appealed to a large cohort of the youth because they addressed things that were important to them: opportunity, access and security. It is young people who are frequently denied opportunities in Kenya: employment, education, healthcare...you name it. They find it near impossible to gain access: to credit, procurement opportunities, institutions of power such as political parties, etc. And it is young people who experience, to an overwhelming degree, the total breakdown in security: they are frequently perpetrators and victims of major crimes.


The Jubilee Manifesto went to great lengths to identify the "issues" that appealed to the youth and to detail policies it would pursue and programmes it would implement to ensure that their lot in life was better than that of the generations that came before. It is only the blindly loyal of other coalitions that refused to acknowledge that while the Jubilee ideas appeared pie-in-the-skyish, they were well-reasoned and well-explained. CORD, forgetting the lessons of 2002, simply pursued the same strategy that had lost Raila Odinga the election in 2007 (he will forever claim that he won, and he and his acolytes may be the only ones who do.)


Kenyans are (usually) not the sheep they are presumed to be by their political overlords. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto realised this, even when many of their advisers like Francis ole Kaparo, Samuel Poghisio and Joshua Kuttuny did not. William Ruto's URP is a study in conservatve values, sticking to the tried and tested political style of KANU's dead past, while TNA engendered an insurgent spirit, youthfulness and military-like discipline. CORD became a byword for intrigue and infighting. When it was apparent that Jubilee would maintain an 800,000-vote lead throughout the count, I believe, this was because of the youthful Kenyans who threw in their lot with the flashy new toy rather than the crapped-out jalopy that simply would not run well.


Uhuru Kenyatta has done what not politician in Kenya has done at the national level: successfully take on not only the establishment but a powerful, if disorganised, opposition. When he held on to KANU for so long, none was sure why he did so. I think he wanted legitimacy for as long as possible before he identified the perfect vehicle for his ambitious goal. Had he jumped into Kiraitu Murungi's bus, he would have suffered the same fate Raila Odinga did when Kalonzo Musyoka "stole" the original ODM from under his feet. He found a party, or secretly financed its formation, injected hundreds of millions into it, ensured that it was managed by professionals an hired even more professionals to spread his message. Mr Kenyatta ran the perfect campaign. When he persuaded the URP and other minor outfits to get in line behind him, he cemented his position. CORD, and Raila Odinga, on the other hand, kept shooting themselves in the foot, especially when they allowed a Luo cabal to behave like hegemons.


When Mr Kenyatta receives the Instruments of Power from Mwai Kibaki today, he can be proud that he is now to be considered the Barack Obama of Africa. Not Kikwete. Not Nkuruzinza. Not Kagame. And Not Khama. Him. Read it and weep.

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