Push to have Uhuru out of politics is a big lie
The partisan calls on former President Uhuru Kenyatta to retire from politics rose to a crescendo this week with the holding of his faction’s Jubilee Party National Delegates Congress. The same voices asking him to retire from politics would easily cheer him on if he played on their side. Dishonesty, it seems, is the substance of Kenyan politics.
Reference has been made to former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki and their conduct post their State House years. President Moi retired to his beloved Kabarak while Kibaki spent his last years quietly in his home. The first president, Jomo Kenyatta, passed on while still in office.
Of note is when the late presidents started their political careers and how long they stayed in it. Of the three, Kibaki was the youngest. Enticed by the allure of politics from the classroom setting, Kibaki abandoned lecturing midstream in Uganda to support the Kanu office in Nairobi. By the time he became president, Kibaki had seen it all in politics.
The same could be said of the other two, all who started politics long before the younger Kenyatta even became self-aware. It is disingenuous to compare the younger Kenyatta with his predecessors; in any case, the younger Kenyatta practised politics in an entirely different context. The call then to Kenyatta to retire from politics raises some questions worth exploring. What is politics? Simply put, it is the art of governance and how resources are shared in a society. Should Kenyatta then not have a right as a citizen to have a say in how resources are shared? In a sense, all living creatures are involved, to some level, in politics. Former presidents may not have avoided politics since they used to vote and pay taxes.
The call to President Kenyatta not to be involved in politics is to demand that he not apply his considerable clout as somebody with name recognition to serve as a centre of alternative thought streams away from the mainstream.
Politics involves association which is guaranteed in law to all citizens. Would the demand to avoid politics not infringe on a citizen’s constitutional right to association, movement, thought and speech, irrespective of the citizen’s age and position in society?
The country was experimenting with electing President Kenyatta. He was the country’s youngest president yet, when he assumed office and, therefore, still active in every way by the time he finished his term. In fact, President William Ruto assumes office as an agemate of Kenyatta. To expect President Ruto, at the end of his term, whether five or ten years, to retire and leave politics alone would certainly be equal to infringing on his rights as well. The rights to association, movement, thought, speech, among others should mean something. Suppose the call for a former president to avoid politics is to be appropriately observed, then certain conditions may need to be in place. It may require that a minimum age to assume the presidency be set to allow the holder to be sufficiently aged by the date of their completion of office to be able to express opinion, canvas, and move actively.
As long as the law allows all adults to contest for any position, including the presidency, it is hypocritical to demand that their rights be limited later. In any case, Kenyan society has not made similar demands on other politicians. Former Members of Parliament continue to engage in politics post their terms. The same applies to governors, some returning to the office or contemplating returning to the office after completing their terms.
Democracy requires us to engage in social discourse with honesty. The demands we make now must be founded on some philosophy and should be applied not only when it is convenient for us, but at all times.
— The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University