Monday, August 19, 2013

Post-Election Insolence: Same Script, Same Cast, Different Lanes (Part I)

April 26th, 2013: 

Under the influence of an inspired State House PR team, and a brilliant presidential speech-writer, I find myself in the unfamiliar position of becoming President Kenyatta’s unofficial fan-boy. And going by my Social Media timelines, it would seem that I’m not the only Kenyan above the ignorance of tripping over myself at what must be this president’s burliest mascot – his smoke, pun unintended, and mirrors.

There was the YouTube video of bloopers from the campaign trail, aired live on Citizen TV – among other nationwide visual couriers of new agendas. What self-respecting PRO could in their right mind have passed up on that kind of marketing? A nice touch you’ll find available for download at and

Characteristically much later came the Cabinet Secretary announcements, anticlimactically revealing only four of a possible eighteen nominees. The images depicting UhuRuto with their sleeves rolled up with the red, blue or matching ties could not have been lost on us either, a leaf copy-pasted straight off President Obama’s playbook; as was the setup of the presidential platform at the foot of the pillars of State House, and the “brotherly love” approach to handling the media.

The immediate hullabaloo over this delay in cooking up a cabinet was counterbalanced by equally loud calls for patience, since the process of selection would only do Kenya good, hence requiring diligent input by the two Jubilee leaders. Opinionistas were quick to delve into the matter, adding the fact that it allowed Parliament to begin the vetting process on the four, notably the nominee to the National Treasury. A road sign was quickly erected, reminding us of the immediacy of the budget reading, and pointing directly at President Uhuru’s ingenuity in prioritizing that appointment. Even more pedestrian crossings allowed us to cross the reality that department of state appointments in democracies such as the motherload United States are also conducted in similar fashion. Hail the dapper UhuRuto for style, they said.

After ascertaining that we’d had enough time to mull over this perceived letdown, yesterday happened. The now sixteen member council of nominees’ credentials have since been turned into fodder on massive multi-page spreads in the National Press: a young and virile team of technocrats with the résumés, frequent flier miles and Varsity qualifications – read Diaspora education – to back them. It would be difficult to dig into a good majority of these consummate professionals before they’ve had the onus of a Cabinet track record to look back on; and so for the most part, Kenyans chose to eyeball the two final nominees, who had the ignominy of a hangman’s noose in the form of their past performances hanging over their heads.

It was indeed a masterstroke distinctive of this new regime’s style when the two final nominations came. The execution was flawless…introduce the less-maligning Balala first and fast as Mining Secretary, and what with Kenyan women’s obvious goo goo gaga reactions to both Andrew Kenneth and then-President Elect Uhuru’s son, it was hard to disagree with that logic. Much especially so when one of the bigger stains in Kenya’s conscience – if she had one – was announced next as Lands, Housing and Urban Development Secretary. A fellow blogger went as far as inaugurating the indelible ink used by the IEBC to mark voters’ pinkies as ‘the Ngilu’, aptly summarizing her hard-to-be-rid-of hard-as-nails Die Hardness. 

In the interests of being fundamentally unKenyan, however, let’s spot and point out the obvious flaws in this action by the president, and the equal and expectedly opposite overreaction by the public. First off, if the past 7-odd years of Mr. Kibaki’s governance have shown us anything, it’s that we the duly submissive wananchi have an impressively sturdy level of BSc, aka Bullshit compliance. After an initially quasi-smooth beginning to his term, Señor Kibaki’s government began experiencing hit after hit of graft allegations on a grand scale. Cabinet Ministers who would go on to survive both terms in cabinet were at the heart of these scandals, and no less than the Prime Minister, at the time, as well as the current President and his Deputy have since had their fair share of the corruption allegation cake.

Our national ego however quickly massaged our national conscience into submission, cushioned by echoes of a booming economy that peaked at 7 percent+ growth in 2007. Secondly, even after the election violence slammed the brakes on this impressive trajectory in the eve of that year, our precocious National Accord did precious little to bring to account all the evils of the 3-odd month chaos that rocked the country, preferring instead to lock them up in a cabinet of faux peaceful oblivion. I will hereby declare my silence on the awkward little topic of how far up that cabinet’s annals the matter of the two Suspects-in-Chief’s involvement is filed. 

Fast forward through Mr. Kibaki’s second term, right past the fact that the economy has never quite recovered to its pre-07 election pregnancy glow, police brutality caught live on tape, Ngilu’s ‘Kusema-na-Kutender’ government contract policy for her family, and arrive at the fact that these four politicians that will possibly make up Cabinet are a precipitate remnant of the systemic cancer that permeates Kenyan politics. The fact that we’re reacting so strongly to two cabinet ministerial appointments belays the beleaguered truth that the President and his Deputy are not saints either. Their power is so much more potentially weary for Kenya’s economy than a couple of Secretaries could ever be. 

Moreover, there is also the little matter of the illusion of transparency – a cousin to the delusion of maturity that was peddled regarding our peaceful elections. Mock transparency concerts have become a favorite national pastime for us. Initially given to the impression of them simply being a little passing crush, I am wont to keep that false hope up given the vetting committee that awaits this panel of preeminent secretaries. A committee that itself wrought down the Integrity bill to its bare bone to escape vetting. Yet the same institutions that have been vetted include the IEBC (Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission), the SCoK (Supreme Court of Kenya) and the SRC (Salaries and Regulations Committee) among myriad others. And look how far ahead of the imaginary pack that has taken us! 

Vetting is a superficially pointless attempt at presenting us sanctimonious facades, behind which still sit the deep-seated structural flaws we are yet to take off our collective feet.

So as you and I continue to exercise in our national training grounds for BSc, it would behoove us to continue upgrading our UXp (User Exercise in patience) coz it’s gonna be a long ride. If UhuRuto really wish to preside over a nation devoted to balancing the historically set up equation of inequity, they might want to start by cutting their flair for the dramatic and convincingly turn their images on their heads, and with that, all the attendant melancholy their half-baked policies could inflict on Kenya.

How much BS is too much BS? Kenya is the perfect case study establishing that there is simply no answer to that question. Hopefully in Part II remember to bash the insidious Cord leadership, but for now, this seems sufficient.

    On a sidenote: 

      Of course I too thought the appointments yesterday represented one region, and part of one region alone. Runda, Nairobi. Or Muthaiga et al. The nominees have a lot in common with President UK, not least in their overwhelming affinity for the Queen's language, and an inescapable half Kikuyu + Kalenjin composition. And before you jump on my throat, I am a Kikuyu, so by stereotypical thought I readily admit to being a thief and first cousin to the president. 

That being outta the way, what I'd like to add is the fact that we need a rollerskating kinda cabinet, not a credentialist/ tribalist kind. Credentials follow the set norm. As does tribalism. Rollerskating needs you to practice being on the board - and granted, fall off it as many times as Edison's light bulb moments anti-orgasmed - till you find a way to stay on top of the board. And begin to muster it.

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