UHURU KENYATTA: ELECTIONS 2017 STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
SINCE he ascended to State House in 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on Kenyans to do less politics and focus more on developing the country. Purely on the basis of messaging, that is a plus for the president, and voters will remember that, come Elections 2017. Because elections are not only about deliverable projects. Elections are also about keeping hope alive.
Raila Odinga, the Opposition Chief and the widely acknowledged Sungura Mjaja of Kenyan politics, is a fierce political beast to President Kenyatta. Since he lost the race for State House in 2013, Mr. Odinga has, in many public pronouncements, appeared as a bitter man in hurry to settle political scores. Hence his strategy of keeping the country in elections mode 24/7 and always painting the Jubilee administration as inefficient and corrupt. Will fatigued voters reward or chastise Mr. Odinga for this?
Until now, the government’s response to attacks by the Opposition has appeared weak and least coordinated. Facts on the ground show Kenya’s resurgence as the dominant economy and the technical and financial hub of Eastern Africa. Recent visits by US President Barack Obama, Pope John Paul II and the successful hosting of WTO MC10 are clearly a plus for the Jubilee administration.
But, Mr. Odinga would not agree. He sharpened his criticism of the government during and after the high level visits. He hit the road with a campaign tour of the vote-rich Rift Valley. Then he took the fight to Western Kenya, Nyanza, Coast and North Eastern where he addressed rallies and funeral gatherings and accused the government of all manner of ills. Knowingly or not, in North Eastern, Mr. Odinga had reacted to a ruse. He found no mass graves of victims of extra-judicial killings.
They say be careful what you wish for. By refusing to honor summons issued by EACC, the Anti-corruption authority, Mr. Odinga was deliberately touting the authority to arrest him. Doing that would have turned him into an instant martyr and invited his nearly fanatical followers to cause commotion, sabotage businesses and disrupt the peace. Credit goes to the Commission for avoiding that Mtego wa Panya. By claiming that a hefty Shs.140 billion had been stolen from the Eurobond and not providing evidence, Mr. Odinga may, once again, have used propaganda as facts.
About 20 months to the next general elections, the Jubilee administration seem to have decided enough is enough of the bullying by the Opposition. During the 2013 campaigns, Uhuru and Ruto said they could chew the gum and walk the stairs, in reference to their ICC baggage of the time. Now, they want to demonstrate they can handle the ICC, develop the country and do a little politics to counter the Opposition.
For starters, all political parties allied to the Jubilee administration such as TNA, URP and New Ford Kenya will join a new vehicle called Jubilee Party. Uhuru and Ruto will remain candidates for president and deputy respectively. Titanic battles will then shift to the counties where voters will elect governors, senators and MCAs. The new party’s motto is Tuko Pamoja. That, wait a minute, is a powerful and emotive message appealing for national unity and reconciliation.
Baby-sitting the implementation of the new constitution has not been rosy for the Jubilee administration. They have delivered on some of their campaign promises such as infrastructure. But, they have half-delivered or made U-turn on other promises such as the Laptop for every child in school.
If they succeed in forming the Jubilee Party, the focus of Kenyan politics will for once be about ideology and issues and not ethnicity or personalities. The big question will be how the national and county governments have used tax-payers money to improve the infrastructure, security, healthcare, education, and conditions for jobs to grow in all the 47 counties.
A recent survey of likely voters by IPSOS shows 29% would vote for Mr. Odinga and 40% for Uhuru Kenyatta as president if elections are called today. The tide may slowly be turning against Mr. Odinga’s ever-polarizing, fiery leftist politics that rides on real or imagined social discontent, without offering a clear manifesto of his socialist program.
Elections 2017 will show how much the average Kenyans are fed up with personality-cult dominated politics that is high on garb but weak on development and progress agenda for the country. Clearly, there is a vacuum to be filled by issue-oriented leaders at all levels of governance. Where art thou Kenyan Diaspora?
OP-ED By Leonard Njoroge