Why Uhuru won’t be too bothered about inclusivity in second term

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President Uhuru Kenyatta

Preparations for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday have in the past week proceeded against background noise urging him to unite the country.

It is a ritual chorus that Mr Kenyatta will have little difficulty giving a ritual response to in his inauguration speech.

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Having repeated the national unity call so many times in his campaign rhetoric, he has to consider himself well-practised in the ritual by now.

The sheer number of times his administration had to defend itself against accusations it was a two-tribe affair during his first term in office raises questions as to whether he ever means what he says.

The prospects for an inclusive Uhuru Presidency look even more unlikely if you consider the backstory of his re-election.

For all the statistical impression of a landslide victory (Mr Kenyan won with 98 per cent of the vote), the October 26 rerun is the closest a Kenyan presidential election has got to a perfect ethnic census.

A county-by-county breakdown of the voting pattern in that solo race shows that the Mt Kenya and Kalenjin counties and Nairobi alone accounted for 80 per cent of the 7,483,895 votes the President received.

Voting did not take place at all in 25 of the 27 Luo Nyanza constituencies where residents also happened to have been loudest and most dramatic in their opposition to Mr Kenyatta’s administration.

The rest of the country chose to do it relatively quietly but still managed to make a strong statement about who they think Mr Kenyatta really is.

The people of Vihiga County were particularly mean with their compliments, giving the President less than 10,000 out of the about 272,000 available.

On paper, voting patterns shouldn’t affect the way a President governs, a point Mr Kenyatta might even emphasise in his inauguration speech on Tuesday.

But public appointment patterns in the national security agencies and the economically key ministries of the National Treasury, Energy, Agriculture, Transport, Infrastructure, ICT, Land and Devolution during his first term suggest that ethnicity does weigh on the President’s mind.

Ordinarily a re-election bid should have been enough incentive for Mr Kenyatta to try to increase his appeal among a large section of Kenyans alienated by his so-called “tyranny of numbers” campaign in 2013.

With little more than leisurely legacy issues to think about as he embarks on his second term, he won’t be too concerned about inclusivity.

If he does end up getting concerned, it will perhaps be to try to help his heir apparent, Deputy President William Ruto’s cause in 2022.

But the duo could also look at their success in the recent elections and decide that exclusivity never stopped anyone from being elected any way.

Why bother with inclusivity if you can make friends at the electoral commission or hire the best lawyers for Supreme Court petitions, for example.


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