Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar made an interesting remark in regard to President Uhuru Kenyatta recently. He stated that President Uhuru Kenyatta might be Kenya’s Head of State, but he is not Kenya’s ‘Head of Nation’.
I rarely agree with Senator Omar, in private or in public. I am on record as having challenged a position he took that suggested the discrimination of Kikuyus from public service jobs and I still detest his view of the role Kikuyus should play in Kenyan affairs. I also completely disagree with how he plays his politics. However, on this particular statement, I think he has a message worth Jubilee’s consideration.
Political scientists define a State as a political unit covering a certain recognised geographical region, with ultimate authority over its affairs within this specific area. It is sovereign, runs the government, oversees a territory, organises the citizenry, and maintains the violent capacity to protect itself from threats within and without. In short the State is that raw, hard, dry power that keeps a country open for business. To be part of a state is to accept its sovereignty over your affairs.
A nation on the other hand is a group that is united by common beliefs, language, culture or history, and that inhabits a particular territory. Essentially it can be defined as a socio-spiritual entity; that soft, romantic aspect of a country’s political system. It is best represented as a ‘feeling’. To be part of a nation is to emotionally accept to be part of a social structure in a country.
The Head of a State runs the hard dry political unit. In Kenya you get into this office after winning a presidential election. Uhuru Kenyatta is Kenya’s current Head of State. This is a fact that can no longer be challenged by anyone; including those who do not agree with him locally or internationally.
It is also assumed that when one becomes Head of State, they automatically become the Head of the Nation. This is not correct. The ‘Head of State’ is a legal mandate. The ‘Head of Nation’ is a social mandate. The former is declared; the latter is earned.
When Senator Omar declares that President Kenyatta is Kenya’s ‘Head of State’ but not the ‘Head of Nation’ he is basically telling the President that he recognises his legal mandate, but not his social one. The Senator, and those who think like him, are telling the President that he is not accepted as the national leader, at least not everywhere in Kenya; despite the fact that he is the Head of State.
Unfortunately the Senator is right. The last election left a country divided. CORD has continued to grow and sustain these divisions, while President Kenyatta has not done enough to bridge it.
CORD understands that when challenging an incumbent head of state you must first dislodge his social mandate, overwhelmingly. This is an experience Uhuru Kenyatta must remember; it happened to him in 2002. CORD is therefore using every platform available to them, including calling for national dialogue and a referendum, to achieve this. They intend to make the next elections a fight for the hearts and souls of Kenyans, rather than just the fight for the machinery of government.
President Kenyatta needs to challenge this notion, aggressively. When a President loses his social mandate to govern; or when it is not comprehensive enough across the nation, he will spend all his time fighting to sustain his legitimacy. He will not achieve much else beyond this, with his Presidency.
President Kenyatta must deliberately go out of his way to unleash his proverbial social charm at those Kenyans in regions that did not support him in 2013. I was part of a campaign against him and I can assure him that whereas people in certain areas might disagree with his politics, I did not meet a single person who had a problem with him as an individual; at least not then.
This socio-political offensive must be done by him. He cannot delegate it to anyone else, not even his Deputy President. This is because whereas one can delegate head of state duties, but there can only be one head of the nation at a time.
Finally he must ruthlessly engage political structures that challenge his social mandate. This is the biggest threat to his second term.
Anyone above 35 years of age remembers how we officially hated our parents when we were growing up, and they were running our lives. Now that are all grown up, running our own lives; and trying to manage the lives of our own children; we appreciate why they did what they did, without necessarily endorsing everything that they did. I suspect this is how we relate with Former President Moi. Anyone who understands Kenya’s politics now understands why Moi did what he did.
Happy belated Birthday Mzee. Kenya will certainly never forget you.
(Ngunjiri Wambugu is the Director of Change Associates, a Political Communications Consultancy)