Kenya: Why Uhuru Can’t be Elected President


Blamuel Njururi
Nairobi – Nov 1. Kenya goes to the polls in March next year in a contest that has attracted a field of dozen presidential aspirants amid international concern over two of them indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The son of the late Kenya’s President Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta and parliamentary member, William Ruto are among four Kenyans facing charges before The Hague based ICC for their involvement in 2008 post-election violence that claimed 1,500 lives, rendered 650,000 internally displaced persons and caused millions of dollars in economic losses.

Both the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have warned that the election of either Uhuru or Ruto to the presidency will not augur well for Kenya internationally. Both aspirants have claimed that Kenyan voters are best placed to decide their next president. Indeed they say they will turn the election into a referendum against the ICC indictment. Can Uhuru be elected Kenya’s 4th president?

Uhuru Kenyatta is undoubtedly the richest presidential aspirant. Last year he was named Kenya’s richest man by Forbes magazine’s “Africa’s richest” list. Uhuru makes the list at number 25 with an estimated wealth valued at $500 million. He did not dispute the report.

Forbes says of Uhuru; “He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.”

Uhuru and his family also own Brookside Dairies, Kenya’s largest dairy company, as well as stakes in popular television station K24 and a commercial bank in Nairobi, among other commercial interests. That disclosure is just a tip of the iceberg in so far as the Kenyatta family wealth goes. It is in millions of dollars and straddles the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

But can all that wealth or political acumen, if any, take Uhuru to State House come March 2012 General Election? Political pundits think it will not be a walk in the park for Uhuru based on the following reasons.

The Hague International Crime Court Case

When Uhuru’s case was confirmed by the ICC judges he started the dreaded journey as an international criminal suspect facing crimes against humanity. The case is the single most important obstacle between him and State House. Some political activists have filed a case in the High Court seeking to bar him and ICC co-accused William Ruto from the presidential race on account of integrity issues over The Hague case.

The Attorney General Githu Muigai has gone to the Supreme Court to seek clarification on whether one is free to run for an elective office as a constitutional right on one hand, and on the other hand be disqualified by the same constitution on the basis of integrity.

Article 38(3)(c) of the constitution says; “Every adult citizen has a right, without unreasonable restrictions, to be a candidate for public office, or office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and, if elected to hold office.”

However, that provision is countered by Article 10 which binds all state officers to national values and principles of governance which include “national unity, rule of law, social justice, equality, good governance, integrity and accountability”.

The constitution places another huddle on Uhuru’s way even if elected president in clause 143 (4) that states, “The immunity of the President under this Article shall not extend to a crime for which the President may be prosecuted under any treaty to which Kenya is party and which prohibits such immunity.

That means even if elected president Uhuru will not be off the ICC hook. The ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda amply exemplified the issue in her first trip to Kenya since taking office last week saying under the ICC treaty, there is no immunity for any suspect.

The Kikuyu factor

In the Kibaki succession battle, Uhuru starts at a major disadvantage because of the emotive ethnic politics surrounding the Presidency. He is a Kikuyu. Some politicians strongly feel and say that the Kikuyu have occupied the top seat for 25 years and the Kalenjins for 24 years and it is time for another tribe to take up the State House tenancy.

Kikuyu youth rebellion against the tribal outfit Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) demonstrated by Limuru 3, means central Kenya and the Kikuyu vote will be difficult to hold as a block. Even if they voted as a block, they won’t force Uhuru into State House.

Other presidential candidates like Musalia Mudavadi a Luyha, Raila Odinga a Luo, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka a Kamba and Charity Ngilu also a Kamba, will deal serious blows on the central Kenya voters’ block and leave a seriously dented ramshackle. Other central Kenya candidate like Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth will also get a portion of the cake however hard Uhuru’s TNA tries to protect it.

Indeed, all the major tribes in Kenya, Kikuyu, Luyha, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba intend to have their candidate on the presidential ballot. Uhuru thinks he can win in the first round by enlisting Ruto and his Kalenjin votes. It is difficult to comprehend how Kenyans would accept a president elected by only two communities (which they cannot) out of 42 tribes. In any case the County-demarcated Central Kenya and the Rift Valley cannot give Uhuru 50-plus one of the registered voters and 25 counties as required by the constitution.

That is where the much touted Raila’s “two-horse race” comes in handy. Raila wants to turn the race between him and Uhuru into an ethnic referendum against a third Kikuyu presidency. The ODM question will be simple – should another Kikuyu take over from Kibaki. Other tribes will not vote for Uhuru in a run off whether he faces Mudavadi, Raila or Kalonzo.

Raila’s plot was inadvertently unveiled last weekend during a meeting with Kalenjin elders who literally declared war on the Kikuyu presidency by asking Ruto to gang up with the ODM boss and describing Uhuru as selfish for seeking a third Kikuyu presidency. To them Raila should team up with Ruto, be president for five years then be succeeded by Ruto. The ODM presidential aspirant did not condemn the Kalenjin elders for such open ethnic hatred but purported to apologize to them for not appointing their son deputy Prime Minister.

Kenyatta Family Wealth

Forbes reported Uhuru as worth $500 million (over Ksh 40 billion) on his 50th birthday last year portraying him as the richest person in Kenya. This will work against him as the presidential campaign gathers momentum. State House and the Presidency in Kenya is viewed as the epitome of wealth generation. Uhuru’s father was there and accumulated immense wealth. Why give his son another opportunity to enrich himself even more?

Having assets valued at Ksh 40 billion and having other assets generating income for one are two different things but Uhuru lives in the two worlds. Uhuru’s land assets, especially in the controversial Taita-Taveta, generate millions of shillings every day in mineral wealth. His multiple commercial investments in tourism, banking and insurance industries are another source of daily income in millions of shillings – not thousands.

Would Uhuru have enough time to serve the country or he would be chasing more wealth? Former dictator Daniel arap Moi, who plunged then young Kenyatta into politics, left a trail of crippling poverty over the 24 years he spent accumulating ill-gotten wealth. During Uhuru’s tenure as finance minister, the shilling depreciated to its worst possible rate in Kenya history to exchange at a record high of Ksh 107. That is gross fiscal mismanagement.

Land ownership

The Kenyatta family is reputed to own land equivalent to the size of entire Nyanza Province. This is sad when landlessness bites deep even in central Kenya. Worse, thousands of IDPs created by the violence for which he is before the ICC, have been living in desolate camps since 2008. His family is now a major beneficially of land bought by the government to resettle the IDPs at exorbitant prices. He has been part of a government that seems to care more about a bloated cabinet, international travel, conspicuous consumption and wealth accumulation.

To most of the IDPs and millions of Kenyans living in abject poverty, Uhuru does not care for them. Once the campaign hots up and land issues plus grabbed wealth that he inherited are raised, Kenyan voters will dread another draconian leader lording over them.

The election comes at an opportune time when the Mau Mau veterans and their descendants who did not benefit from the struggle that benefitted the undeserving grabbers are fighting the British government for compensation. Some vocal voices against Kenyatta’s land grabbing have been progressively silenced through detention and murder. Grabbed land provided the means to wealth that created the Kenya ruling and business elite. sThat is what Uhuru presidency intends to protect.

The Kenya government has spent millions of shillings in taxpayers’ cash hopping around the world in shuttle diplomacy seeking the UN Security Council intervention to defer the ICC cases before Uhuru and his co-accused but not a cent to seek support the case against the British for the atrocities Kenyans suffered during the 1952-1960 emergency. The Kenya government has never cared to compensate the Mau Mau fighters in the face of the British arrogance.

The real reason the Kenya government stands aloof over the matter is because the Kenyatta government shared the money, given by the British government to resettle those displaced by the Mau Mau insurgence, amongst cabinet and top civil servants to acquire White settler farms and businesses. That explains the ownership of huge tracts of land in the former White Highlands by Kenyatta era ministers, permanent secretaries and military generals. They also own extensive coastline beach plots and businesses. In other words, they own Kenya. This election may be Uhuru’s payback time.

Uhuru’s Development Record and Leadership Acumen

Uhuru is now a political leader for close to 15 years. He has been a cabinet minister in both Moi and Kibaki governments. Kenyans have the right to demand his performance record nationally and in his Gatundu backyard.

Gatundu South constituency is among areas leading in jigger population among school age children and poverty levels in the country. Jigger infestation is a direct result of poverty and lack of clean water supply – nothing else!

Ichaweri, Uhuru’s rural homestead in Gatundu, where he says he will return to farm when he loses the election next year, was a 5-acre piece when Kenyatta acquired it in 1962. Today it is a sprawling huge island of plenty in the midst of barren poverty. Local neighbours were forcefully evicted or coerced to sell their farms to create room for expansionist Kenyatta. The Kenyatta era Gatundu self-help hospital is a shell compared to a modern facility like Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital in Dandora in Embakasi constituency.

If multi-billionaire Uhuru can’t fight simple jigger infestation and attendant poverty or initiate clean water supply, even though the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), in a small constituency of Gatundu South, what can he do for 40 million Kenyans – with more than 65 per cent of them living in abject poverty, hunger and disease among other social maladies?

Uhuru does not represent the face of the transformation that Kenyans and their country need. Besides, Kenyans should never encourage dynasties to avoid future bloodshed.

He also has served as Deputy Prime Minister and minister of finance. During his time as minister of finance, the shilling depreciated to its worst possible rate to exchange at a record high of Ksh 107 to the dollar. The young Kenyatta took over the ministry of finance when the shilling was exchanging at the Ksh 70 to the dollar, ten times more than when his father died and Moi took over at Ksh 7.

He never explained the massive plunge by the shilling although it is obvious it was good for those in tourism industry and banking sector – both of which Uhuru has extensive interest.

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