Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Too early for judgment day.

Will it be style over substance, flash at the expense of real work? The announcement of the first four nominees to the Cabinet by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was certainly very different from the Mwai Kibaki and Moi moulds. Moi relied on suspended terror; he would make announcements in the most off-hand way. It became routine that every person concerned paid due attention to the one O'Clock news bulletin on the radio - Voice of Kenya as it was once - to discover whether they had kept their jobs or were in deep doo-dah with the Head of State. Mwai Kibaki tended to simply send a an announcement to media houses and stayed firmly behind the high walls and security of State House. Mr Kenyatta's unveiling of the four is the stuff of American-style politics, and it is a breath of fresh air.

There are fears, however, that he intends to be a micro-manager. These fears are without substance. There are other fears that it will be all politics all the time when his Cabinet finally gets to work. Again, these are without foundation. Just as are the fears that he intends to make mince-meat of the human rights provisions of the Constitution, especially freedom of association and speech. Nothing he has done since he was sworn in suggests that these fears are warranted. Indeed, his response to the Garissa massacres was criticized for not being American enough, and second, for being too draconian when he finally dispatched the Inspector-General and his internal security teams to that benighted town.

Mr Kenyatta's is a markedly different style from that of the self-styled Professor of Politics or of his acolyte, Mwai Kibaki. Mr Kenyatta ran a campaign promising change: in leadership and in governance. He has not ruled long enough for us to stand in judgment of his style. His Cabinet is yet to start working; neither is he yet to get the senior members o his civil service appointed. When he does, and when they begin their work, only then will we be able to determine whether he is the consummate back-seat driver or something else entirely.

Many still colour his future with the prism of the ICC. This is unfair, both for the President and for the nation. In their every utterance, his most ardent detractors paint a picture that is in dissonance with what we are seeing today. They argue that because of his indictment by the international court, he will be unable to discharge his functions of the office without distraction, some of which may lead him to make improper or dangerous decisions. Some have even attempted to link the free-laptop-per-child policy with the ICC! Some have began worrying that the witnesses against him are suddenly going to develop collective amnesia or that they are going to suffer acute lead poisoning. None backs up any of his conspiracy theories with hard facts or data.

This is not to say that we should casually remain aloof as the world falls down around our ears. The Constitution that we venerate so much provides for a more interventionist citizenry if only we are willing to organise and play our roles. Recent full-page ads in the dailies by various counties regarding the 2013/2014 budget is a pointer to what we are required to do to hold our elected leaders to account. The likes of Makau Mutua and Maina Kiai may cavil from the comfort of their sinecures in civil society, but it is at the grass-roots that Kenyans will be able t hold their government to account. It begins by organisation and education. If we do neither, and should Mr Kenyatta morph into a combination of his late father and Mr Moi, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

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