President Uhuru Kenyatta scores highly as an affable leader who mingles freely with the lowly in society. He has demystified the Presidency by making himself accessible to Kenyans. The Jubilee Party leader took office in 2013 with fervent optimism. Kenyans saw freshness in the presidency. Coupled with youthfulness in Kenyatta and William Samoei Ruto, many Kenyans thought that, the two leaders will lay a firm foundation that will propel the country into a hub of prosperity. The current President promised to rekindle Kenyans’ shuttered hopes, respect the constitution, fight impunity, and tackle graft.
A critical question many Kenyans are asking today is this: What will the President bequeath to the next generation after he leaves office in 2022? Further to this, Kenyans are wondering whether the country is better off than the way Kenyatta found it after he first took office in 2013!
The Kenyan President should not stretch his legacy to match those of legends like Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King Jr. instead; he should try to do what he can for the Kenyan people before the end of his Presidency in 2022.
The late President of Botswana Ketumile Masire is remembered for focusing on one thing which enabled him to leave a rich legacy. He nurtured fiscal discipline through prudent social and macroeconomic policies for his country. Masire, also managed to do well in health and education. A leadership legacy is when one evaluates the foundation, he wants to leave in the position he or she holds to help the incoming leader.
Jubilee's unfulfilled promises and impaired economy
Kenyans have experienced numerous scandals in the Kenyatta presidency which has impaired economic growth. From the laptops for schools scandal, Eurobond, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to the Galana Kulalu food security project. All these have contributed to the dwindling economic and social development of the country. Currently, Kenyans are writhing under abject poverty. They look upon their government to address this catastrophe through the person who holds the highest office in the land.
The flagship development plan for the Jubilee government dubbed the Big 4 Agenda-Universal Healthcare, Affordable Housing, industrial growth and Food security are in a shamble. Apart from maternal health through the “Linda Mama” initiative which has helped expectant mothers to deliver without incurring costs in public and government recognized private hospitals, millions of Kenyans still struggle to meet the cost of healthcare. It’s in the public domain that the Galana Kulalu maize project collapsed where Kshs. 15 billion went to waste. This killed the hopes of Kenyans to realize Food Security. Despite reassurances from the President, graft still prevails.It remains to be seen how the radical anti-graft proposal announced recently of suspending State officers involved in graft for 90 days will yield fruits.
The President has failed to address growing concerns from Kenyans about over-borrowing from China which has bloated the Country’s foreign debt making Kenya the third indebted nation in Africa only behind Angola and Ethiopia. The Pursuit to recover funds stashed in offshore accounts remains a mirage despite the Kenyan government signing a memorandum of understanding to effect the same with the Swiss President Alain Berse two years ago in Nairobi. In the same year, the British government through Prime Minister Theresa May, signed a deal with the Kenyan President to recover proceeds of corruption from the United Kingdom. Despite the aforementioned, President Kenyatta has never divulged to Kenyans if the funds and assets associated with corruption have been recovered from the above two European countries.
Philanthropy for a legacy
The quest to advance the welfare of others can be noble and indelible. President Kenyatta doesn’t have to be like Bill Gates who has spent personal fortunes to fight poverty, illiteracy and promote health in the globe. He doesn’t have to do what George Soros is doing to fund the Civil Society globally. He can use his family fortunes to help the less fortunate members of the Kenyan society and change lives.
According to Martin Luther King Jr., “every man must decide whether he will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. The most urgent life’s question is: what are you doing for others?”
Pursuing the philanthropic path will enable President Kenyatta touch Kenyan lives. It will capture his humanistic nature beyond politics if he wants to be remembered positively.
Utilize the handshake for a legacy
The mere fact that President Kenyatta had a handshake with Raila Odinga after his 2017 controversial victory doesn’t add a feather on his lapel. Unless Kenyans see the fruits of the historic pact with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, they will always see it as any past MOU’s whose recommendations never materialized. In fact, it’s Odinga, who received more credit for the handshake since he was the aggrieved party after the controversial polls. Kenyans are still in a quandary on what the handshake which happened before Kenyatta begun his second term portends for since the status quo is still intact. For instance, there is no inclusivity in government to reflect the face of Kenya.
Kenyans thought that the handshake which birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will in a timely version push for equity, equality and fairness to heal the wounds of the post-election violence. They thought that President Kenyatta’s government would reach out to families who lost their loved ones during the post-election violence and assuage them.
Consolations for Kenyatta even with shuttered expectations
The future of Kenya may look bleak but not hopeless. The President should offer Kenyans something to look forward to after his retirement in 2022. It is a normal phenomenon for citizens to have high expectations for their government especially when campaign promises are still fresh in their memories.
President Kenyatta has faced challenges in his political journey. In 2002 he vied for the Presidency but lost. This made it hard for him to lead a parliamentary opposition when President Mwai Kibaki, a fellow tribesman was in power. He had to dethrone himself as an opposition leader to join government.
My consolation to Kenyatta is this; great personalities have dusted their ways from the ground to rise into giants whereby, they ended up leaving indelible legacies in their nations.
In the US, Abraham Lincoln overcame many odds to become one of the greatest Presidents. Even the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs faced challenges which almost crumbled his company at inception but by the time of his death, Jobs, left Apple a global mobile giant.
Kenyans are not looking for quick fixes or miracles from President Kenyatta. They want to see him lay down solid structures that will outlive him for the good of Kenya.
By Joseph Lister Nyaringo
President of Kenya Patriotic Movement, a Diaspora lobby based in the US.