By Muli wa Kyendo
That President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ratings are falling is well known. But the amazing thing is that despite this, Uhuru has intensified doing the very things that are continuing upsetting his administration.
One of these is his hiring pattern. Even without the constitution which requires regional balance his jobs, everyone leading a multiethnic, multiracial society like Kenya knows that the only way to be liked is to involve every community – if possible, and everyone. But Uhuru’s appointments are predictably skewed – the hump of the curve heavily leaning towards community.
Kenyans have criticized this pattern of appointed until they have gone run out of breath, given up and shut up. Uhuru apparently isn’t bothered. One MP expressed this when he said it was the prerogative of the president to appoint whoever he wants. “Pf he wants to give all the jobs to his community, let that be so!”
The effect of this – apart from dwindling support and increased perception of corruption that is bedeviling the Uhuru administration – is lack of credible people to explain government policies to Kenyans. Uhuru can only source his spokesmen and women from the same community. The result is that they have become monotonous and predictable. Whenever they open their mouths, you assume you already know what they will say. Look at the credibility erosion that has occurred in parliament because of this. Never before has a parliament acted in such blatant disregard of fair play and commonsense. Retired President Daniel arap Moi used to speak of the despicable character that was his master voice. Now we have a parliament that exemplifies that character – it is the Uhuru Kenyatta’s voice.
This is a disservice to Uhuru because even where he deserves praise for genuine achievement, the ears of Kenyans are firmly stoppered, their eyes firmly shut.
The second thing that has made Uhuru unpopular is exaggerations. Exaggerations, when not matched with results became simple lies. And lies are bad in heaven and on earth. One example will suffice. There was a lot of hype about how the injection of some 280MW of Olkaria geothermal power into the national grid would reduce the cost of electricity. We were expecting a reduction whose size was such that you could see it with your eyes closed. But the cost has remained – at the best – just the same.
The total effect of these has been the effort by the government to muzzle critics and the media – an effort which has increased the creditability of the media and the civil society. Unlike Uhuru government, both of these institutions are all what the government isn’t. They are multiethnic, multiracial, and they don’t exaggerate issues. They are the new face of Kenya.
So what can Uhuru do to redeem his popularity? Emulate the two institutions and shun like plague, advice like that given by his deputy William Ruto who told Kenyans in broad daylight that only communities in government will enjoy its benefits. The rest, to paraphrase him, will eat only the dregs.
That route will take Uhuru and his government deep into the quagmire of unpopularity – unless of course he is willing to rule Kenyans willy-nilly. And that may be a very risky gamble.