New beginning or a false start?

The inauguration of the Kenya Kwanza government filled the hearts of a large majority of hustlers with much joy, in the belief that it heralded a great new dawn that would see hustlers of this great country witness prosperity, equity and human dignity. The momentous occasion, celebrated at a packed to overflowing Kasarani stadium, persuaded even the doubting Thomas’s to begin believing again in the new narrative of the bottom ups narrative, in which discrimination and the indignity of death from hunger, preventable diseases or unemployment would be confined forever to the dustbin of history, or at least would be progressively addressed. The regrettable and shoddily handled joblessness’ of many Kenyans who lost jobs in an economy that was struggling after the effects of covid do suggest however, that the political class, or at least sections of it, do not share the enthusiasm of other Kenyans for the new dawn. Even after the Jubilee government promised a detailed remedy soon after assuming power in the hotly contested election of 2017 in which the current President was Deputy President. 

Lately, coming back to the point I wish to make, there has been much brouhaha in the media, after the President made appointments for parastatal Chairperson a civil society activist posted on the internet a cartoon depicting the ethnicisation of the key strategic and leadership positions in the finance and energy sectors. In this scenario, the cartoonist noted, government business in the affected sectors could be literally transacted in one local language. In the security sector, the said cartoon showed that, among other things, members of one linguistic group provided the basis for meetings.

In the finance sector, the Minister, Permanent Secretary, Heads of Central Bank, KRA, and the Economic Secretary among many other key departments were also all drawn from one ethnic group. One tongue-in-cheek comment on Facebook suggested that in the Kenya Kwanza alliance, all strategic ministries that had been shared out to other non-Kalenjin communities in the heat of the crusade against had been “clawed back” and given to the “rightful” holders. What one wonders about is the noise from fellow Kenyans on the controversial Finance Bill of 2023. That is to say that the chauffeur economists in the Kenya Kwanza government did not advise the President that the issue of housing is not a priority for Kenyans. It is a ploy to raise money to remove term limits and create voting machines in the name of Kenya kwanza alliance MPs and rented MPs from both Azimio and Jubilee.

It is therefore against the backdrop of this robust debate on the real meaning of what is the priority and substance of housing and wanton taxation of this new regime. The national integration that the appointment of General Ogola as Chief of Defense Forces will be viewed by many. In some quarters, it heralds yet another milestone in what is turning out to be a scheme to maintain the security sector of our country in “safe” appeasing hands after public humiliation of the said General that he was among the group that went to bomas to deny the current President of his victory. This perspective posits that preparations are being made to give President Ruto a “soft landing”. Those who reason this way argue that General Ogola, who will soon turn 62, should have retired in September this year under the well regarded Tonje rules, which ideally would have brought the curtain down on his career. The Tonje rules have manifestly been regarded  in his case. Is it his reward for the rumored role he played in “persuading” the electoral chairman to look the other way and turn up at bomas after dusk to declare Raila Odinga President?

General Ogola joins other security “home boys” such as Haji of NSIS, and Koome, the Director General of Police. The other home boys in the security sector are the GSU commandant, and CID director, hence creating a scenario in which the coercive apparatuses in the country will be monopolized by one community. Given the prominent role of the coercive apparatuses in adjudicating the outcome of our last general elections in favor of the Kenya Kwanza government, the broader meanings to which Ogola appointment may be attached are too grave to countenance. The paradox is that those who make decisions that defy the norms of national cohesion also get surprised by the depth of resentment that their actions elicit.

The narrative of a tribal hegemony (or in our case hegemony-the pun is intended) that is being built in the security, finance, energy, and legal sectors, to mention but a few will be difficult to counter given the evidence. It also feeds into yet another controvertible narrative, which is that there is a concerted effort to tie the hands of Kenya’s next head of state with pre-selected appointments to key constitutional and strategic managerial positions, if he does not happen to be the “preferred” heir. The reasoning in this perspective is that the multi-layered appointments of tribesmen to key positions in the said sectors will not be easy to reverse or address without attracting “our people are being finished” cries, or the lamentations of the successor to the much-maligned National Integration and Cohesion Commission. This also transgresses the way the speakers of both Senate and  National Assembly handle issues with impunity.

More importantly, especially in the light of efforts to reconcile Kenyans with fellow Kenyans in the aftermath of the chaos of late 2007 and early 2008, the latest development would suggest that a sense of entitlement and impunity still pervades the corridors of power in the country, no matter the veracity of such fears.

The author is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi.