President Uhuru Kenyatta during a past State of the Nation address. PHOTO| PSCU
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  • From my youthful days I have had experiences of at least three Kenya’s presidents when my knowledge database was better developed. They are retired President Moi and Kibaki and incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta son of the first independent Kenya president, Jomo Kenyatta. I know little of experience of the first president though I lived during his reign. What I can recall as a growing kid in a rural area around Mt Kenya is a booming coffee industry and numerous growing small towns and shopping centres as a result. I remember young men and old men taking a lot of well manufactured beer (unlike some of the stuff in the market today) as they had some good money from the crop by then standards. But I can also recall that old Jomo was a feared leader as the ‘mucene’ (secret conversations) then was that he was a ‘Kamaliza’ (he dealt with political opponents quite ruthlessly including detention). But there are things I do also today in course of research that he had some good luck with the economy, However, many or any other leader he had his fair share of mistakes some that could have probably been avoided. There is much I can tell about the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta as I over time have expanded by knowledge and that with data everywhere and easily available especially on internet there is a lot to gather. Keeping to current events, his speech on Thursday April 5, 2019 seems like those of the past state of the nation addresses. Judging from the numerous sentiments I have seen online and from numerous interactions Kenyans expected more than he gave. Most of the sentiments you see especially online many Kenyans feel short-changed.
    Uhuru came in as a president probably at a more difficult time than all previous presidents. From look of things the heir to the mantle after he leaves office will meet a more complicated nation as daily demands are increasing and becoming tougher to achieve. If you look at Kenya’s political, economic and social challenges at present, it signals a very tough future ahead. So unless a lot of political, economic and social engineering and reengineering is done there is bound to be a problematic future for the country. Already, we are a country suffering a lot of unemployment and other economic maladies. Still our country has not sufficiently overcome high levels of political hostilities. What we do have is a lull after the famous handshake between President Kenyatta and opposition maestro Raila Odinga early last year. Returning to high octane and high antagonistic politics is still very easy and highly probable. Indeed there are all indications that for various reasons some of personal nature quite a number of politicians derives some benefit from highly divisive politics. Thus unless certain structures and systems are put in place we may end up in a future of quite divisive and destructive politics. Looking around on political meetings carried by various politicians across the country at various times especially on weekends, there are signs that it is not just competition as politics is but our political culture hasn’t changed much.
    With a difficult economy and a country which has been severely been destroyed by high levels of corruption the sense has been President Kenyatta has more to do than any past Kenyan leader. This partly explains the very high expectations during Thursday 4th of April 2019 state of the nation address. Some opine we are not doing enough on the fight against corruption. Political expediency seems to have carried the day but problems remain unresolved. We are still reeling under the weight of corruption. Corruption is a well ingrained culture in Kenya. As reported in various media almost on every day corruption is a scourge affecting both national and county governments. As routinely reported in the press and as is ever in people’s tongues it could explain a lot on the state of affairs of underdevelopment and lack of employment or life improvement opportunities. Unfortunately in an environment such as is Kenya where corruption is well entrenched and built robust networks and establishes itself strongly in politics and in various other structures including of social nature, defeating the vice is not that easy. Similarly with politics in Kenya having been strongly been entrenched on tribal lines corruption finds big protection in that other horrid evil of tribalism. If you add the fact that the generally the large chucks of population is either aloof or gullible to political propaganda and machinations you have a big problem in overcoming the hurdles to tame the evil. The reality is, if President Uhuru Kenyatta hopes to leave a country with a sense of direction, a country with a future, a country proud of itself and to build his own legacy as a leader, he has to tame corruption. This taming cannot be achieved by relying on an individual or individuals alone. Leaders change, office holder’s change and power moves around and about to others.
    You never know what happens in the future. Many leaders will come and go. Suppose some will be very tolerant to corruption? Suppose the politics of the day and exigencies does not give the leaders a chance to deal with corruption? Then what? The reality is there are fundamental changes in law required to condemn graft and destroy its networks and its existence. The law should strongly anchor the fight against corruption. This fight as we have seen cannot be left to one body. One body or agency for that matter can easily be made ineffective or become so. It has to be multifaceted and multi-agency in nature. With one body you could have incompetent leaders or officers or compromised ones and makes it harder to make progress. If it is distributed it makes it harder for compromising or to allow the vice to thrive without action. Fighting corruption is not easy and thus the complexity needs a lot of different players. But the laws must come in strongly. This is not too much to ask the president for.
    Additionally and as aforementioned there is a problem with our politics. There is a problem with our political culture. Devolution was a great idea but laws and structures to tame graft in counties need to be enhanced. In addition it is easy to go back or get more aggressive to what has been the politics of exclusion in Kenya. How do we tame this? The winner takes all mentality or system cannot work for countries like Kenya if it ever works elsewhere. Without increasing too many layers and costs I strongly believe a powerful President (within a presidential system) with other structures to ensure no winner excludes any part of the nation and ensuring better checks and balances are in order. In other words we need a system that guarantees national security and a leader with the ability to do various duties without excluding any part of the country and without abusing power. How do we achieve this? I believe we have great legal and political minds that can craft the law that way. I still believe and it is in anyway sensible that we can enhance the constitution without weakening it to accommodate all that. I still opine that the fight against corruption and recovery of proceeds of graft need be constitutionalized in institutions and in execution of this noble duty. Thus as part of the legacy Uhuru Kenyatta has a lot to do in reforming the supreme law before his term is over.
    The speech was great in promises. The skepticism you see is based on the fact that the country has huge expectations on delivery and generally there is a feeling more could have been done and done better the past period. In a country with a fast rising population and the scourge of unemployment and poverty slowly but surely destroying it, the expectations are quite reasonable. We have no choice but to destroy and tame the monstrosity of unemployment and poverty. As rightly observed by many this cannot happen within the conditions we are in especially of corruption and bad politics of exclusion and hate. Expect more agitations as we go by. However to note is that plenty of political risks have to be taken to move the country forward. The circumstances are difficult but inevitably a lot need to be done at the level of the President. The baton is on Kenyatta’s hand and can explain why his every move is closely watched and will remain so. The country expects and needs so much to be done to improve its circumstances and the circumstances of the people. Great leaders are recognized by their efforts that make their countries and citizens better. President Kenyatta has time to achieve that feat.
    Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
    The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, the Leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, and Chairman Consumer Downtown Association and also represents Several Other Organisations in various capacities.

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