Kenya: Politicians must be held accountable on election pledges
By: Jamlick Kogi
President Kenyatta recently endorsed the opposition leader to be president during the August general election. Although the president aims to unite the country by supporting Raila, he has on the contrary caused division and welcomed wrath from those who support his deputy, Dr. Ruto, an ally turned foe. President Kenyatta hinted that he will not hand over power to a “thief”, referring to Dr. Ruto, who he had promised to support after he finishes his term. The president has also alleged that Dr. Ruto wanted to impeach him. President Kenyatta should build his legacy and allow Kenyans to exercise their democratic right to choose their next president.
The president is openly campaigning for Mr. Raila Odinga whereas he should fulfill Jubilee election pledges most of which are still not completed and some have not been started. In addition, there are other pressing issues such as the high cost of living and joblessness which the head of state should concentrate on. The following measures would make President Kenyatta exit stage on a high note rather than be remembered as a “political” president who delivered underwhelmingly.
The President should concentrate on delivering the promises he made to Kenyans, for the remaining months before the August polls and leave a good legacy. Jubilee government promised to establish at least one industry in each of the 47 counties of Kenya. However, this has not been achieved.
Entrepreneurs like Machua have ventured into manufacturing and have good products. In addition, Piquant spices have offered 5 staff members employment and are still growing. On the other hand, Anthony Muthungu, the founder of Kenya’s first USB cable manufacturing company, says he would scale production and employ more people with the support of the government. Job opportunities created by these entrepreneurs pale in comparison to what the government would have created by establishing industries in all counties.
If re-elected in 2017, Jubilee had promised to create at least 1 million jobs every year. The unemployment rate increased in Kenya by 6.6 % in the first quarter of 2021, against 5.4 % in the previous quarter. President Kenyatta should focus on creating job employment by establishing more industries.
Other bigger issues the president and his executive should focus on include sealing corruption loopholes in the public sector. Kenya’s Corruption Perception Index dropped by 1 point to 30 in 2021 from 31 in 2020, with zero (0) being the most corrupt. By sealing, money can be saved and deployed to other good uses such as taming climate change, subsidizing farm inputs, and encouraging more food production to enhance food security.
The president who should be a symbol of national unity, should take a back position and encourage reconciliation, instead of taking sides and dividing the country by supporting one political coalition versus another. Currently, Kenyans are divided politically through status. Many Kenyans view the ‘Azimio la Umoja’ coalition that the president is supporting as pro-establishment while most of the low-income citizens are identifying with the deputy president who is spearheading a bottom-up approach to uplift ‘hustlers’ through the ‘Kenya Kwanza’ Coalition.
Critics are concerned that the president is taking sides even on serious matters such as security. He strongly condemned the stoning of a helicopter carrying Raila Odinga but was quiet when the deputy president’s meetings were disrupted by rowdy youths. All violence should be condemned and not tolerated but there should be no bias in the application of the law regardless of the side that is in favour of the government of the day. President Kenyatta should rise above this and advocate for equal application of the law.
Abraham Lincoln opined democracy as government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Every citizen has the right to free, fair, and regular elections. Public servants should not express their personal views on political matters or get involved in active politics. However, some have defied the law and are openly campaigning and supporting politicians. The president should crack the whip and put civil servants in line to allow democracy to prevail. Kenyans should decide who they will vote for without undue influence by the government and its agencies.
I would be remiss if I don’t give credit where it is due. There are good projects the Jubilee government has completed, and others are ongoing including the construction of the Nairobi Expressway. However, those at the bottom of the pyramid need the government that is led by the president to address their immediate needs like an affordable lifestyle that remains a mirage owing to the high cost of living.
Trade imbalance, climate change that has resulted in irregular and reduced rainfall, and affected food security are grave challenges that the president and his government should address instead of actively campaigning as if he would be on the ballot. The economic and social pillars of vision 2030 should also be accorded attention besides the political pillar.
Charity begins at home and the central Kenya community, also known as Mount Kenya, where the president comes from, feels that the president has betrayed his deputy who helped him ascend to power. He has since fallen out with most people from central Kenya, the majority of who are backing Dr. Ruto in revolt. The president should find peace with his community and Kenya at large by putting in place better policies that will control ballooning debt and repayment as well as improve the economic outlook.
Although the president has a right to exercise his democratic right and mention his preferred successor, Kenyans should make their informed decision by vetting all leaders. Kenyans should evaluate the track records and character of all candidates and vote from personal conviction and not through influence by those in power. Voters’ decisions should be primary and the opinion of those in power should be secondary. Merit should be the denominator that determines who wins the presidential election.
The president should level the playing field and take a step back from active politics and let the candidates convince the electorate the best way they can without using his influence. In addition, he should direct the state resources he is using to support Raila to more urgent needs such as subsidizing food commodities than direct them to campaign for Raila.
At the end of the day, the electoral body owes Kenyan citizens a free and fair election. Voters should also not engage in any form of violence. I trust that this will be the situation during and after the August 2022 general election. That will be a sign that the Kenyan democracy has come of age. Let’s get it right this time, shall we?
Source: Qiraat Africa