BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
One of the advantages of being a member of KANU is that one gets to understand how Kenya’s political system works.
Think about it; every government that has come forth after KANU was led by people who cut their political teeth in KANU. Former President Mwai Kibaki was a founder member of KANU and its first Executive Director. Kibaki built his political brand from the various roles he played in KANU including decades as minister holding different portfolios, as well as a decade as Vice President. When he left KANU Kenyans knew him and it was therefore easy for him to form the Democratic Party (DP) and 10 years later rally a coalition around it and win, forming government in 2003.
The current President, Uhuru Kenyatta, was also brought into politics by KANU in 1997. The party nominated him into Parliament after he lost that election and he went on to serve as minister in various capacities. He was then KANU’s presidential candidate in 2002; became Leader of Opposition, then joined the coalition government as Deputy Prime Minister, still in KANU. In fact he was KANU Chairman up until eight months to the last election when he left KANU, formed The National Alliance Party (TNA), rallied a coalition around it; and formed government in 2013. Kenyans know Uhuru Kenyatta because of KANU.
Ditto for every single senior politician in Kenya today. Whether it is former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who actually closed down his own ‘shop’ – National Democratic Party (NDP) to join KANU as Secretary General; or Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto who were once KANU Organizing Secretary Generals, or Moses Wetangula; everyone has been a key official in KANU.
This tends to get lost when we say that since KANU left power Kenya has advanced remarkably fast. It is true that our economic development, infrastructural expansion, technological advancement etc, have been amazing. It is also true that the growth of our democratic space has also been tremendous, to the point we scare our neighbours; and that our Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world today. Our politics has also advanced (despite one moment of madness) to the point where a losing presidential candidate can be invited to speak at leading first world universities.
However this advancement has come at a price. Since KANU left power Kenya has been spiralling down the barrel of insecurity, with the 2007 Post Election Violence being the optimum moment. Violence has become a tool of political negotiation.
Post-KANU Kenyans have a lot more freedom, but we have refused to take responsibility for it. We now live in a country where criminals can take over houses of worship violently, hide weapons there, but when security agents take over such spaces we claim it infringes on our religious freedom. On the other hand when the President challenges us to take the responsibility of securing our privates spaces, we claim he is abdicating the responsibility of keeping us safe!
I therefore recommend that President Kenyatta borrow a few ideas from KANU as regards security.
First; the President must bring back the ‘mystery’ of the Presidency. The Presidency represents the essence of State power, which is why we spend so much resource protecting the holder of this office. Attempts by Jubilee to demystify the presidency might look ‘cool’ but the extent to which it has been done is now eroding the socio-political power of not just the President, but also of his key officials. Today no one takes Jubilee government officials, including ministers, seriously. This has adversely affected how these government officials carry out their responsibilities to the citizenry, especially on matters of security.
Second; the President must establish a ‘Kitchen Cabinet’. Kitchen Cabinets are made up of experienced political minds who do not need anything from the President, except maybe his protection. Such an outfit ensures that the President puts the bureaucratic output he is fed every day it in perspective to the objectives of his presidency. ‘Old hands’ will advise him on what to ignore to avoid fighting every (media) battle.
‘Old hands’ will also keep reminding him that running government is never about getting a perfect score on something; it is about getting above average across the board. They will especially remind him that you could score ‘A’ in everything else and lose your government by failing on security only, like nearly happened to President Kibaki in 2008.
Third; the President must understand that States are protected by their monopoly over violence. In fact political philosopher Max Weber describes the State as a ‘human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory’. Any person who threatens this monopoly must be dealt with ruthlessly, however justified their grievances are. State monopoly on violence is non-negotiable, and in this one area a state has a blank cheque from its citizens. Cash this cheque Mr President!
(Wambugu is Executive Director – Change Associates, a political communications consultancy)