Tough choices for Uhuru as country marks Mashujaa
President Uhuru Kenyatta will today preside over his final Mashujaa Day celebrations as Head of State ahead of his retirement in August next year.
With the event coming amid intensified campaigns for the country’s top seat less than a year to the election, all eyes will be on the President with pundits expecting that he will use the opportunity to address his succession plan.
According to Prof Munene Macharia, a political analyst and a former lecturer in international relations at USIU-Africa, President Uhuru is likely to use the day to lay down his achievements and how he intends to cover the remainder of his presidential journey.
Prof Macharia says from Mashujaa Day, the President would be counting his last days in the State House with each day marking a major milestone in his life.
“As he uses the day to encourage Kenyans to follow in the footsteps of the country’s heroes, some of whom shed their blood to liberate us from colonialism, he will also be expected to lay down the road map to his retirement.
And in that roadmap, the key thing is the kind of legacy he wants to leave behind,” says Prof Macharia.
Though President Uhuru has been credited with modernising the country’s infrastructure including the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and several super highways, he has been criticised for letting the country’s debt spiral to an all-time high of Sh7.7 trillion.
With the country’s economy being at its worst level, the effects of Covid-19 eating into the country’s socio-economic sphere, his relationship with his deputy William Ruto and the interminable wrangles in his government and Jubilee Party, President Uhuru’s in-tray is full.
His address also comes at a time when calls have intensified on him to lift the dusk to dawn curfew with operators in the transport and entertainment sectors counting losses running into billions of shillings.
Kenyans will also be waiting with bated breath to see whether the President will use today’s occasion to respond to claims by the Pandora Papers that his family has stashed assets and billions of shillings in offshore accounts and also make pronouncements of other State officers who have such accounts.
“The Pandora Papers and subsequent follow up audits will lift that veil of secrecy and darkness for those who cannot explain their assets or wealth,” President Uhuru stated while promising to address the issue comprehensively on his return from a two-week visit to the Americas.
And though the President has called for a fresh round of negotiations between Kenya and Somalia as the only means to solving the maritime border dispute, he may use today’s occasion to espouse a clearer way forward.
Other areas that are likely to dent the President’s legacy include the high fuel prices, skyrocketing cost of living, non-implementation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report and the strained relations between Kenya with some of her neighbours, especially Somalia.
“Kenyans are looking forward to hearing the President offer solutions to the high cost of living.
Life is becoming quite unbearable and the President has a responsibility to address that as part of his legacy,” says National Assembly leader of Minority John Mbadi.
As he addresses the nation today, the President is confronted with tough choices as he mulls either lifting the curfew and other Covid-19 containment measures and risk a public health crisis or maintain the status quo and risk economic depression.
Experts warn that it will be difficult to expand economic activity while minimising the health risks for the people who are not able to work remotely, begging the question: is it worth it?
On Monday, the President hinted at lifting the curfew that paralysed all night operations, with a promise that he could make the move within a few days.
But as he considers lifting the curfew and other restrictions, there are risks that the move could end up generating new Covid-19 explosions and force the government to impose even tougher restrictions in future.
This is bearing in mind that the Ministry of Health has already predicted a fourth wave around November.
“The President should lift the night curfew and instead impose even tougher rules on the wearing of masks, social distancing and other sanitation rules in every business,” argues Prof Matilu Mwau, Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) deputy director and a virologist.
But Prof Mwau warns this could backfire given how casual Kenyans have treated the danger posed by coronavirus.
The President began his final term with a resolve to articulate and implement his Big Four agenda dream that seems to have run out of steam.
According to Ruto and his allies, the Big Four agenda hit a snag following the March 9, 2018 Handshake between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
“Immediately after the Handshake that rocked the Jubilee dream, they brought in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) reggae train with ODM leader Raila Odinga as a co-driver,” says Nandi senator Samson Cherargei, an ardent Ruto ally.
Analysts say though the Handshake has enabled President Uhuru to have more quiet and peaceful second term, it has complicated his succession due to his fallout with his deputy.
As he prepares to leave office in August next year, all eyes are on the President on whether he will play any pivotal role in determining who succeeds him.
Perhaps alluding to this expectation, President Kenyatta, while addressing a stopover meeting in Kirinyaga on his way to Sagana State lodge on Monday, vowed to kick out corrupt leaders from his government before he leaves office.
Addressing the crowd that turned up at various towns and trading centres on his way, the President told Kenyans to watch “this space” as he moves to act decisively.
“And I have said it before, that I am not seeking votes again and will therefore ensure I have purged all fraudsters. Isn’t it?
Do we agree on that? I don’t fear anybody and nobody should blame me for that. It is time to work,” he is reported to have said.
Prof Macharia says the pronouncement is a clear indication that the President is determined to streamline his legacy, particularly on the fight against corruption and control his succession.
In recent months, the President’s public camaraderie with Raila has left little doubt that he is his preferred choice to succeed him next year.
In the latest engagements, the President, through some of his close allies, has appeared to take it upon himself to endear the veteran opposition chief to the Mt Kenya voters, a vote rich region that has influenced the country’s politics since independence.
“Though we cannot at the moment make a judgment on whether he has handled his succession well, he is obviously going to play a major role in who succeeds him.
I think we are going to see quite a lot from the President from today in regard to his succession,” Prof Macharia says.
Although he does not see the President using today’s occasion to advance his political interests, arguing that he will likely wish to have the day respected as a national fete.
He, however, urges the President to institute mechanisms to unite the country.
“One of the greatest legacy he should strive to leave behind is a united country.
He should copy from former President Kibaki on that,” Prof Macharia says.