Why the Presidency is the Least of our Problems in Kenya

By Collins A.

Allow me to stop being a ‘NASArite’ for a moment. Let me tell you a story about how this country is playing with fire. I will start by using two incidents to demystify the presidency, in both Kenya and elsewhere. I will use them to illustrate how the presidency is in fact the least of our problems.

The first is a story that appeared in the papers several weeks ago. It was about what Moi said when he went to see Saitoti after someone poisoned and nearly killed him (Saitoti).

“Si nilikuambia uwache kukula ovyo ovyo na wewe unajua adui yako!”

I found this conversation very surreal. This is the President and his Deputy, discussing a third party, who they both appear helpless to deal with! This is the utmost testament of presidential surrender in its raw form.

The President is a powerless figurehead

I kept reading that line repeatedly. Yet, a closer study of presidents, across history and the world, confirmed my fear. The holder of the office of president is usually just a figurehead. They are a figurehead for shadowy, powerful, and evil forces that s/he has no control over.

The second is the murder of John F. Kennedy, the leader of the most powerful country on earth. Authorities arrested a young man, Lee Harvey Oswald, for the murder. Soon, he set up himself for his own death. People have analysed the videos from that day millions of times over the years. Yet, the near consensus is that that LHO could not have been the killer. This is by his location, and JFK’s head movement as the shots rang out.

There are theories of more shooters at the infamous Grassy Knoll. These were slightly ahead of the Kennedy motorcade. The theories have totally made sense about more killers and the framing of LHO. Suspects in the murder ranged from his own military Generals, to the CIA. Others were the Mafia to FBI Director Edgar Hoover, the Israeli Mossad to Marilyn Monroe’s angry co-lover. Also, the Soviets to space aliens competing for control of weapons infrastructure.

Yet, with the entire system at their disposal, the Americans never pursued any of the angles. Someone assassinates the Commander in Chief, but the system does not work to bring his killers to book. This is in the country where this would be a straightforward matter. Just imagine that!

The shadowy, powerful and evil forces

The President is a powerless figurehead, forget the lofty grandstanding. As soon as people elect him, he becomes hostage to all these forces.

We now know something from books by Raila, Moody Awori, Kalonzo and others. One hour after people elected him, Kibaki was no longer accessible. He detached himself from the very people who delivered the victory as he sat on a wheelchair. Kibaki also told us at the handing over of the Kriegler report that “I heard that I had won”. Do you see? Dude did not know anything!

When your country is toying with civil war as we clearly are, it is not just the leader who is the problem, but also the faceless characters we do not know. It is because of these characters that one regime can conceive a scandal, which the next regime ‘implements’ smoothly. The change of presidents does not move them.

They are loyal to no party and no tribe. They are loyal to their offshore bank accounts, and to their arms deals. More so, they are loyal to their holiday homes in the remote Pacific Islands, and to their stomachs. Heck, they are not even loyal to their offspring. When the devil says, “Ongeza damu,” they throw their child into the equation.

Kenya has always stopped its moment of change

To capture back your country, you have to be so angry. You do things that collapse the economic power of these characters. This often means the country’s economy goes into near collapse too. However, a country must fall to rise again.

A historian once told me that in this region, every country has found its foothold after a disastrous thing happened. Like snakes, you have to shed off the outer skin to start afresh. Tanzania did with the death of Ujamaa. The rest of the countries did by wars.

Kenya, in contrast, has either always stopped its ‘Damascus’ moment by negotiating peace and/or stopping the full process midway. This includes the 1978 transition, the 1982 coup, and the 1969 murder of Mboya. Others are the 2002 election and the mini civil war of 2007. It means that for us, someone long planted the seed, but we only manage to stop the germination.

One day, we will not.

Elections are not revolutions

Knowing this, why are we like this? Why do we play with fire?

First, as you can see, elections are not revolutions. You can vote daily until the Lord returns, but you will not deliver yourself. You need proper cleansing, which, I will tell you for free, you will not achieve by tribal formations.

You can cheer when your side orders police to bludgeon babies to death. On one hand, you can cheer when your MP insults the leader of the other side. On the other hand, you can get angry when the MP from the other side returns the compliment. You can dwell in that fool’s paradise where you think that having ‘your man’ in power guarantees long-term safety.

However, in the slums are young men who daily find no more reason to live and nothing to lose. Across the villages are people whose lives have become nightmares due to poverty, HIV, hopelessness, and hunger. They lose the element of fear daily.

So why are we all cheering ourselves towards the precipice?

We are already at the point where one trigger is all it takes. Yet we are so obsessed we will not stop. Those who control the police think the police can be on their side forever. Those who do not think they can fight forever.

In the meantime, every day, we take a step closer to the fire. Both sides think they are the ones to emerge triumphant. Up until the time when they reach the elastic limit and the cord goes bust!

One day you will remember this post.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the post? Sound off in the comments!
SOURCEIsaiah Otieno
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I comment on the current political and social issues in Kenya. I am also passionate about devolved governance and public finance. Follow me on social media.

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