Why President Kenyatta’s Politics Threaten Kenya’s Democracy

Uhuru Kenyatta’s Leadership Style is a Threat to Democracy in Kenya

By the time retired President Mwai Kibaki left office in 2013, Kenya prided itself in a new constitution heralded as one of the best on the planet and a host of independent institutions among other numerous unmistakable signs of a vibrant democracy:

  • The opposition and the media could get away with any form of government criticism, something that had been unthinkable previously;
  • If they deemed it necessary, citizens could peacefully organize and demonstrate and would be given protection under the law;
  • There was clear functioning separation of powers between the three arms of government which created effective checks and balances;
  • And the country’s economy was ten times stronger than it had ever been in history!

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two terms in office have all but reversed all of these gains.

Heroes of the 2nd Liberation during a Saba Saba Rally in 1990. From left to right: Gitobu Imanyara, James Orengo, Raila Odinga, and Charles Rubia. Photo courtesy of The Star.

Sometimes inconspicuously and other times flagrantly, President Kenyatta has systematically hijacked the fruits of the second liberation that, having been delayed during KANU’s stint at the helm between 1992 and 2002, had begun ripening under NARC and later the Coalition government. For one, Kenyatta obliterated the opposition in the guise of uniting the country through the handshake. Moreover, the president sought to discredit the fourth estate by mocking, demeaning, and attacking the media using words such as “Gazeti ni ya kufunga nyama.” Additionally, the government eroded the right to peacefully demonstrate by countering peaceful protests with teargas and beatings. Then, using cabinet secretaries and other executive officials sycophantically loyal to him, the head of state weakened the other arms of government—the judiciary was brought to its knees through a reduced budget while the legislature went to the dogs when the sinister pact between the president and Raila Odinga gave the former unfathomable power to unleash severe punishment towards the law makers who dared stand up to his ridiculous stances.

A secretive meeting between Raila and Uhuru at the height of opposition between the two resulted in the opposition quitting all opposition to the government. Concluding with a public handshake between the two the meeting ended up obliterating the opposition which has since assumed the role of a mouthpiece to the president. Photo courtesy of The Standard.

Other than the economic crisis and the unrelenting grip of a new type of colonialism that Kenyatta’s regime has thrust our motherland into through China debts, the straw that may break the camel’s back is the infiltration and control of independent constitutional institutions, most notably the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Just recently, we heard about IEBC’s protest at its being engulfed in a committee that is supposed to oversee the 2022 elections. In typical Kenyatta style, the committee is made up of cabinet secretaries that are notorious for their blatant sycophancy in their loyalty to the president.

It is cavalier and even duplicitous of the government to approach the next general elections in this manner. It is no secret that our political parties and coalitions are always organized around the tribes of their presidential candidates and their running mates. That is why terms such as “the Luyha nation,” “climbing Mt. Kenya,” “so-and-so’s stronghold” are ubiquitous in our political lingo. If candidates cannot be assured that their victories or losses arise from a free and fair election process, how can we hope to avoid situations like the 2007 PEV? If IEBC is not allowed its independence, how can Kenyans trust that their vote will count?

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