BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
As we wrap up 2015 I would like to look at some of the issues that stood out for me during the year. However unlike many of the columns I expect to read on this over the next 10 days, I will focus on what I think President Kenyatta did well.
The year 2015 ends with the feeling that President Kenyatta finally has gotten security right. I would assume that this has a lot to do with the fact that he has finally completely overhauled the leadership of Kenya’s top security team. This process began in mid 2014 with the change in the leadership of the National Intelligence Service, followed by the change of the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Inspector General of Police in December 2014. Four months into 2015 the leadership of the Kenya Defence Forces also changed.
Not many Presidents make such comprehensive changes on an area that is as sensitive as security. In fact in most circumstances such changes are strategically scattered across several years to ensure that each change is first consolidated before the next one is made. However President Kenyatta managed to do it in less than 12 months and all indications are that Kenya is now doing a lot better for it.
Of course this does not overlook the fact that Kenya suffered its most atrocious terrorist attack in 2015. But the Garissa University attack must be put in context. The year 2015 saw an escalation in terrorist attacks not just in Kenya but in many other countries across the world. Nigeria has lost thousands to terrorists while several first world countries were also attacked in ways they had never envisioned. The attacks have been a learning curve for all as we can see from the heightened security awareness across the country.
There is also something to be said about the fact that Kenya has not suffered another major terrorist attack since then. We only hear about foiled terrorist attacks in various parts of the country. This is something we must celebrate, even as we continue eternal vigilance. I also hope we will see more information made available of foiled attacks in 2016 so as to help build up the faith Kenyans have in their security agencies.
The year 2015 is also the year when Kenya’s foreign policy became obvious. In the midst of the hullabaloo that President Kenyatta has made 43 foreign trips since he took office three years ago many failed to notice the December Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) ranking that placed Kenya as the fourth most influential country in Africa, after South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt. This is huge!
In 2015 alone Kenya hosted the US President, the Italian Prime Minister, the Pope, and the British Foreign Minister. We hosted the Chinese Prime Minister in 2014. We have also hosted several African Heads of State. This month we hosted over 7,000 delegates at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial conference.
This might seem a small thing until one remembers that less than three years ago a major concern Kenyans had was that we would become a pariah State once Uhuru and Ruto took over the Presidency. Today Kenya has gone way beyond the threats of essential contact to the point where we are being accused of having a foreign policy that’s a lot more aggressive than a country our size should have. Credit must be given to President Kenyatta for turning this around. Credit must also be given to Ambassador Amina Mohamed for ensuring that the Jubilee Government is the first Kenyan administration to have a foreign policy that is actually written down, since independence!
The year 2015 is also when we saw the fight against corruption take shape. By December 2015 there were 337 major corruption cases being prosecuted in court, with over 70 of them associated with senior government personalities and business people. We have also seen five Cabinet Secretaries fired and one resign for being linked to corruption. Kenya’s anti-corruption agency has been reconstituted, the private sector pulled into the anti-corruption fight, and corruption has been re-categorised as a national security threat.
If we were to be objective we would all agree that the efforts that have gone into fighting corruption this year have been unprecedented in Kenya’s history. However there are many who will argue that these efforts are not enough. They have a valid point. However corruption is fought in courtrooms not political podiums. I see President Kenyatta as having done as much as our laws allow him to do. The rest is up to the institutions we have set up to fight this scourge.
Finally, 2015 is the year I saw what presidential humility looks like. The picture of President Kenyatta happily joining other Kenyans to wave at Pope Francis as he was driven around Kasarani stadium is something I will never forget.
Well done Mr President.
Merry Christmas Fellow Kenyans
(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Consultancy)