Kenya comes out of lockdown with a set of new managers
Nearly four months after taking over the capital city’s management, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration is taking stock of its progress, as it prepares to reopen the country.
President Kenyatta’s new city management team, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), delivered a report of its progress at the end of June, 100 days its takeover in early March.
As part of his political and economic plan for the twilight of his second term, Kenyatta wrenched control of the capital from Governor Mike Sonko, a member of his ruling party.
Kenyatta packed the new team with military officers , relying on both their loyalty and lack of political debts to keep them above the fray of Nairobi’s entrenched economic and political interests.
Led by Major General Mohammed A. Badi, a senior air force man virtually unknown outside the military before his appointment in late March, the NMS has tried to succeed where previous administration’s failed.
Why it Matters?
Nairobi is Kenya’s political, economic and social epicenter, which makes its politics essentially national politics. Run by a series of mayors since its colonial days, its two governors under the new political system have found themselves at times at odds with the Kenyatta administration, especially on who controls what.
- Kenyatta’s new team used the lockdown period to give the city a facelift, repaving roads and converting parking lanes into footpaths.
- They also made moves within the city management, auditing employee lists and replacing senior decision makers within critical portfolios such as urban planning.
But Kenyatta’s bigger challenge is that the capital needs more than just a facelift. In June, Badi said his team’s work had created employment for youth and street families, using an employment initiative by the national government, in “drainage clearing, waste management and rehabilitation of roads.”
What could go wrong?
Faced with multiple intersecting crises as he nears his last 48 months in power, President Kenyatta needed a quick fix not just to the city’s management, but also to the country’s finances.
As part of the deed of transfer signed by Governor Sonko in February, the city’s revenues are now collected directly by the country’s revenue authority, cutting off Nairobi’s financial independence and bolstering the national collections significantly.
Kenyatta’s choice of military men over politicians and managers was most likely extends to learning from the failure of a similar move by his political godfather, Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second president from 1978-2002.
While it affords him some comfort of their loyalty and focus, it gives his second term a high-handed outlook.
It has also contributed to the schism in his ruling party, as Governor Sonko’s switch from the city’s senator to chief executive in 2017 was facilitated by Deputy President William Ruto.
- The process that led to his takeover in February is also the subject of several court cases, including one by a city activist over its legality.
- Governor Sonko is also facing corruption charges which were instituted in late 2019 and were a big part of the reasons why he surrendered the city to President Kenyatta.