Toothless president missing in action?
The euphoria that greeted Uhuru Kenyatta’s election in 2013 and his reelection in 2017 has turned into gloom and sadness even in areas considered his strongholds and political turf where so much was expected of him.
From some of his supporters switching off television sets whenever he appears on news to others cursing his administration, millions of Kenyans are living on the edge as Uhuru lets the cost of living, fuel prices and unemployment skyrocket.
The president is also unable to tame the three centres of power that have emerged, with one gravitating around him, another one around William Ruto and the other oscillating around Raila Odinga with all caring for vested interests.
The executive, judiciary and legislature are running at cross roads, a scenario that has rendered Uhuru administration’s service delivery difficult.
Uhuru’s presidency is riddled with allegations of rampant corruption, unfulfilled promises, unbearable economic stagnation, massive unemployment, empty rhetoric and incessant squabbles.
This is despite the fact that when millions of Kenyans queued for hours to vote in the 2013 and 2017 polls, a big majority picked Uhuru on the strength of the belief that as a man of means – coming from one of the richest families in the country – he would not allow state officials to dip their fingers in the honey jar.
On the campaign trail, Uhuru repeatedly promised Kenyans prosperity and opportunity for all, vowing to eliminate ethnic divisions and keep Kenya safe in a bid to make the country a strong trading partner in Africa.
Yet, what is being witnessed now is unbridled acts of corruption, nepotism and pride; a perfect combination of negative drive that has only helped to destroy the foundation that former president Mwai Kibaki painstakingly laid for a strong economy.
Seven years down the line, Kenyans are a disillusioned lot.
They are lamenting that since the day Uhuru took the path of a weak president; a seemingly clueless one for that matter, things have been getting worse by the day. The voters mourn that the president only whines and complains about everything forgetting he is the country’s chief executive and the holder of the instruments of power on whom everyone looks upto to act.
They are wondering why the president has been mum as tribalism and corruption permeate through the entire governance system as few privileged men and women engage in a looting frenzy of unimaginable proportions without batting an eyelid.
Today, Kenya has lost face on the global map for being one of the most corrupt nations in the world and has become what former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga once termed a bandit state.
While on a tour of Israel, Uhuru made sentiments to the effect that Kenyans are only good at stealing and politicking. The president must wake up from his slumberland.
Two weeks ago, China refused to lend Kenya money to complete the much-hyped standard gauge railway to Kisumu and Malaba.
The Chinese are said to have questioned the capacity of Kenya repaying given that public funds were being diverted to individuals’ pockets. The Chinese expressed shock last year that millions of shillings from passenger fare and cargo transport fees at SGR were stolen per day.
The Chinese were also concerned that part of the first loan allegedly ended up in a big man’s account. It was even more worrying for the Chinese that Uhuru took Raila Odinga to “pick” the second loan which set alarm bells given that Raila as opposition is supposed to be the watchdog of Kenya’s resources and going to China with Uhuru raised suspicion Raila was compromised and would not raise a red flag if the Chinese money was being looted as he would be beneficiary.
Kenyans are also increasingly getting irritated by the Jubilee administration’s economic decline.Jobs are even harder to come by; businesses are downsizing and SMEs are folding up. The agriculture sector is on its deathbed; small businesses are folding. Worst of all, the country has sunk in an unsustainable debt hole.
Observers say the Uhuru presidency may have only succeeded in expanding the Kenyatta family’s business empire, headlined by its dominance in the dairy industry. New KCC, a state corporation, has been on the Kenyattas radar for some time now, with the First Family having bought off virtually all milk processors in the country.
Under Uhuru, Kenya has recorded the highest debt in its history, yet the government continues its insatiable appetite for foreign debt, without clear focus on the purpose of borrowing, let alone proper accountability on such borrowed funds.
Still, the government has not been sincere on the nature of external loans when it is clear that the dominance of commercial loans is hurting Kenyans. Sadly, the country has been borrowing one loan to repay another, an untenable loan kitting practice.
Kenyans are also concerned with Auditor-General Edward Ouko’s revelation that the Kenya Ports Authority was offered as collateral for the Sh227 billion SGR loan from China. However, the Chinese government has refuted this claim.
All economic indicators show that government resources are stretched with a rising wage bill estimated at Sh458 billion—about 12pc of gross domestic product.
While revenue performance at approximately 24.3pc of the GDP remains strong, the pattern in the growth of taxes has not aligned with overall government policy aimed at encouraging savings and investment.
Income taxes continue to contribute more than 35pc of the total revenue. These income taxes are growing faster than their respective tax bases. Moreover, Kenya’s population is growing at 2.7pc per annum, accompanied by an ongoing demographic shift.
The proportion of the population that is youthful, relatively skilled and urbanising and either underemployed or unemployed is growing quickly. This shift compounds the pressing need for resources to implement devolved governance structures.
The prevailing circumstances have seen Uhuru attempt to ramp up his would-be legacy through his Big Four Agenda representing the pillars of the Vision 2030 towards a high quality of life for Kenya’s population.
It is projected to result into an economic growth of at least 7pc per year. The development plan entails boosting manufacturing, universal health coverage, food and nutrition security, and supporting the construction of at least 500,000 affordable houses by 2022.
However, Big Four critics say it is another unachievable undertaking that is likely to even taint Uhuru’s supposed legacy given the prevailing economic situation in the country and its timing.
Kenyans are increasingly becoming disgruntled with Uhuru because of corruption as Uhuru is seen to be paying lipservice to the fight against corruption.
When he declared that the anti-graft war will spare no one, including his family and close political allies, Kenyans crossed their fingers, albeit with a tinge of skeptism. A hallmark of confusion, the president would later say he will not be sacking anyone just yet, arguing the law had to take its own cause.
Even with all the powers at his disposal, the president is yet to carry out any major reshuffle in his cabinet. The proverbial barking dog that cannot bite, it suffices to say that people no longer take their president’s warnings seriously.
As if that is not enough, the cabinet rarely meets, unless it is for the cameras. Divided as it is, Uhuru’s cabinet is averse to collective responsibility, a key pillar of governance. Little wonder then, that the president in unable to refrain from humiliating his cabinet secretaries in public.
A slow decision maker, the president previously admitted to wrongfully sacking cabinet secretaries Charity Ngilu and Felix Kosgei on the premise of misleading information.
Looking back, Uhuru once dismissed the print media, whose products he said only served the purpose of kufunga nyama (wrapping meat). This came at a time the media was awash with corruption scoops on the Jubilee administration.
The fractious working relationship between the country’s top two leaders is the clearest signal that the gloves are off in Jubilee, with the president and his deputy headed for an open confrontation.
These contradictory positions have now escalated the internal strife in Jubilee, with two opposing camps coming to the fore – the Uhuru-Raila leaning Kieleweke and the pro-Ruto Tanga Tanga formation.
Already, Uhuru has come out as a lame duck president, what with the open defiance of Tanga Tanga operative in his own Central Kenya backyard. Keen observers finger Uhuru for depending on the intelligence to rule.
This perhaps explains why he has a knack for plucking top security personnel from the National Intelligence Service to head the National Police Service.
Matters came to a boil during the state of the nation address by Uhuru after Kenyans took to social media to lambast him for failing to take decisive action against government officials linked to mega corruption.
As if this is not enough, Kenyans are livid with their president for failing to sack cabinet secretaries who have been implicated in graft including Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his Agriculture and Water counterparts Mwangi Kiunjuri and Simon Chelugui among others.
In his state of the nation address, the president had indicated that he wanted investigations on corruption to follow due process and that institutions probing the vice ensure prosecutions are based on solid evidence, a development that irked many Kenyans who believed that the Director of Public
Prosecutions and the Director of Criminal Investigations had played their roles well.
Uhuru’s inaction has also confirmed suspicion that he is a lame duck president – a president who is in the last part of his term in office and so does not command the respect and wield influence over his juniors because they know that he will soon be of no consequence as far as their political future goes.
Since 2013, the Jubilee administration has been rocked by allegations of corruption that include the Sh200 billion Euro bond loan, inflated cost of the Sh320 billion SGR, the Sh65 billion Kamwarer and Arror dams scandal, Sh11 billion National Youth Service 1 and 2 scandals, Sh5 billion maize and fertiliser scandals, Sh5 billion scandals at Kenya Pipeline Company, Sh10 billion National Hospital Insurance Fund scandal and Sh4.5 billion Kenya Power transformer scandal.
Kenya’s public debt crossed the Sh4 trillion mark at the end of March last year, reflecting the government’s sharp appetite for loans.
Kenya’s current public debt stands at approximately Sh4.884 trillion or 56.4pc of the country’s gross domestic product. This is up from 42.8pc in 2008. In other words, the country owes more than half the value of its economic output.
The country has recently issued two debt instruments (bonds), first in 2014, and then in 2018. The bonds were made available on the international debt market. In any case, Kenya raised approximately over Sh200 billion in borrowed funds.
Kenyans’ fears were expressed by a Coast-based political party leader who hit out at Uhuru over the war on graft.
Matano Chengo, the chairman of Umoja Summit Party of Kenya, accused the president of merely talking tough but doing nothing.
Chengo, who until recently was Mombasa’s Jubilee chairman, said Uhuru should get rid of the CSs mentioned in massive looting if he is serious about fighting corruption.
His sentiments were echoed by Catholic bishops who poured cold water on the president’s fight against corruption suggesting that he has lost his commitment to the war.
Speaking while issuing a press statement at the Queen of Apostle Seminary in Nairobi, the clerics stated that the levels of corruption in the country were worsening by the day.
The clerics questioned the president’s erstwhile zeal to slay the corruption dragon suggesting that the renewed war on corruption was merely a gimmick intended to deceive Kenyans.
The handshake between Uhuru and Raila has not helped steer the country in the right path.
Already, there are claims the handshake was meant to ease the business ties between the Kenyatta and Odinga families.
Kenyans want to see heads roll, whether those heads belong to the president’s sister, his brother or his closest political ally.
Although investigations are ongoing, the president has enough information to start giving marching orders to those whom he appointed to his government but who, instead of working with him to serve the Kenyan people, have become the biggest enemies of the country because of their involvement in the plunder of state resources.
To observers, Uhuru presidency is a reflection of a leader not in touch with reality. Surely, how do you garland a githeriman with a state commendation award when more deserving cases are aplenty?
Since his election in 2013, Uhuru has not been to some of the 47 counties in the country.
Stories are told of one half of the dynamic duo who sleeps late, wakes up late and fears travelling by road. During the 5th devolution conference in Kakamega last year, the president failed to grace the occasion on grounds that weather conditions were unfavourable rendering his flight untenable. Why then, would he not have used presidential limos that cruise at breakneck speed?
Two, this actually buttressed the joke that unlike his father, Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru is a “flying president” who only goes to elitist sporting extravaganzas including golf and motor sports.
Unlike Kibaki and Moi whose parents toiled the hard way, Uhuru is a Cerelac boy who grew up in unbridled grandeur.
With many of the multibillion infrastructural projects being the brainchild of Kibaki, the Jubilee administration has falsely been taking credit for projects not of its birthing.