This week marks the end of the 100-day ‘honey-moon’ period most professional columnists give to any new government across the world. In the 14 columns I have written since President Uhuru Kenyatta took over, I have tried to look at the positives in the new government’s performance, and avoided criticizing them. This was because in all fairness every new government needs to be given time to settle down before one can gauge whether they will deliver.
A cost for my ‘softly-softly’ analysis of the Jubilee government is rumours that I have ‘defected’ from CORD to Jubilee; which is untrue, and a story for another day. Today let me wrap up my view of Jubilee’s government in their first 100-days in power.
First, in these 100 days we have seen Jubilee make devolved government a reality; an amazing feat considering our last experiment on this, four decades ago, was a total disaster. We now have 48 ‘governments’ trying to figure out how to co-exist; and 48 ‘His Excellencies’ competing to show who is most powerful on the ground. Then there is the bicameral parliamentary system, which is up and running. In the 100 days we have seen that there will be many opportunities for intra-house and intra-government differences over the coming years, but this can only lead to better governance for the ordinary Kenyan.
We have also seen an ‘Executive’ like never seen before in Kenya, whether at national or county level. Nationally we are all impressed by how well Kenya’s fourth president ‘wears’ his office; though it most likely has something to do with his familiarity with the place. However between him and what Kenya bloggers call his ‘Deputy Sheriff’ we are seeing a National Executive that has to work a lot harder to appoint people or pass policy as compared to their predecessors (a friend recently joked how Uhuru Kenyatta’s father must have turned in his grave from watching the hoops his son had to jump through to get his former aide appointed as Solicitor General). The same applies to county governments.
The Jubilee government has also managed to implement a turnkey policy; free maternity in public hospitals. As expected this is facing all manner of challenges but truth be told, they are a lot less than those faced by the Narc government when they initiated their free primary education policy in 2003; so if that worked, this should work even better.
Of course the 100 days cannot go without noting how overwhelmed the Jubilee government is by the teachers’ strike. However, unlike most who believe the Jubilee government’s does not understand how to deal with KNUT, I believe they have done impressively well. The Kenya National Union of Teachers was going to strike, whichever government took over power in the last General Election. They have deep-seated grievances that they wanted dealt with before any such government settled down.
However what they are asking for is just not feasible and if the Jubilee government had been foolish enough to roll over for them they would have solved a temporary problem that would then have opened them up for the kind of industrial actions countrywide, that could bring down their government. What Jubilee has done with KNUT is set up their rules of engagement with unions and though I do not agree with everything they have done, I am impressed that they had the strength to call KNUT’s bluff at such an early stage of their government, force them to ‘blink first’.
Now doctors, nurses, the public service, matatu owners, COTU, maybe even the police, who are all watching and waiting their turn, know what to expect, because unions do not come any tougher than KNUT. (How I wish is that President Kenyatta had been as tough with MPs as he has been with teachers! It would have gotten him a lot more support in subsequent calls for salary increments).
I will end with my personal favourite; in these 100 days we have seen a ‘Saul-to-Paul’ transformation of Jubilee’s ‘social face’. Before March 4th the Jubilee we knew was this angry, divisive, ethnic-spewing political demagogue. Today we have a party where not only the top leaders are preaching peace and reconciliation consistently, but even former party hawks like Moses Kuria and Dennis Itumbi!
Now TNA just needs to reconsider the perceived witch-hunt against their chairman and defuse the growing narrative that they are back to the ‘use and dump’ machinations associated with the party’s core supporters. Those around the president must realize that his offer of a ‘hand of friendship’ to Kenyans from regions that did not support him is being viewed against what is happening, especially in TNA, to Kenyans from those ‘other’ parts of the country. Anything that discredits President Kenyatta’s message must therefore be avoided because even if he fails in everything else but succeeds in uniting Kenya, his legacy over the next 5 years will have been made.
(Wambugu the Executive Director, Change Associates Trust)