My assessment of Uhuru’s State of the Nation address

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BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU

It is exactly one year today since I wrote a column titled ‘Now ICC Must Leave Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto Alone’. In this column I challenged all those of us who had not voted for the two leaders to respect the final decision Kenyans had made, and support the new team to deliver on the mandate Kenyans had entrusted to them. I also wished them all the best in office.

When I look back at the responses my piece generated, I have to agree with the President’s ‘State of The Nation’ (SONA) address last week in Parliament; we have really come a long way in the last 12 months, especially as regards tolerating each other politically. However there are two key areas I would have loved to see the President lay more emphasise in his ‘SONA’.

One; in my opinion the most important progress this government has made over the last 12 months is how they have ‘activated’ devolution. Kenyans have craved an elected local government structures since independence, and now we no longer just talk about it; we live and experience it every day. The President should have used ‘SONA’ to recognise the fact that the key fulcrum around which most of the progress in devolution has come from, is the individuals who now represent the realisation of this ‘dream’; the Governors.

The President could therefore have ensured all the 47 Governors were in Parliament and led other leaders to celebrate them for the role they are playing. This would have made them part of the successes of the government he leads, and also paid major political dividends to him in the long run.

In addition, celebrating Governors would have been a good opportunity for the President to explain what the central government is doing to ensure that county governments add (rather than remove) value to the national political, economic and social ‘cake’, and to showcase key strategic projects the central government is involved in with respective counties; and maybe even mentioning specific governors by name. This way the President would have shown Kenyans that he actually runs one Unitary State, rather than a federation of 47 nations as sometimes seems to be the case.

The ‘SONA’ was also the President’s opportunity to build and re-establish an emotional connection with the entire political divide within Parliament, and across the Kenyan public, especially where he did not get votes a year ago. He could have used the opportunity to recognize the role the Opposition is playing in keeping his government on their toes; renewed his commitment to ensure balance of power is maintained between the three arms of government; and appreciated the work the civil society and international community are doing in complimenting his government’s efforts to meet the needs of Kenyans.

He could also have recognised the support of the media in getting information about his government’s work, out to the public. Essentially ‘SONA’ was the President’s opportunity to remind Kenyans that despite our differences, ‘#WeAreOne’. In fact I do not see how he did not speak of his pride at how Kenyans across the religious, ethnic and demographic divide, rallied together after the Westgate Attack.

Jubilee has also faced challenges in their first year in office and I would have loved to hear how he intends to tackle them. We have experienced a government that acts like a dysfunctional family. The Police Inspector General and the Police Oversight Commission Chairman are consistently fighting on the media, as are the Lands Minister and the National Land Commission Chairman. Parliament and the Senate are either fighting each other, fighting the governors, or fighting the Judiciary. There seems to be absolutely no chemistry between the Kenya Defence Forces and the Police, and between KDF and their line Ministry.

We have also read opinion pieces from the Presidency, castigating the public service they preside over. There are even rumours of vicious fights within State House itself! How all these people claim to be working for and within one government, I do not understand.

Our security and governance structures have also gone to the dogs. A Muslim Cleric can go on national television, call other Kenyans ‘Infidels’, publicly justify terrorist attacks on Kenyan soil, as ‘acts of war’, and get away with it. Youth in sections of Kenya are being trained to kill other Kenyans. A religious war seems to be simmering below the surface. The police now brush away nearly every major crime incident, as ‘just ordinary crime’. Meanwhile anyone in power now decides which laws to recognise and which ones are ‘idiotic’; every elected leader is getting money from the tax payer, despite the government implementing austerity measures, and it looks like our government procurement system is run by corruption cartels.

Is it finally time for the President dusts off his ’48 Laws of Power’ and/or ‘The Prince’, or will he continue to watch some around him, destroying his government? Time will tell.

(Wambugu is the Executive Director, Change Associates Trust)

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