Another victory for Kenya’s sultans of spin

By Michael Chege in Nairobi
Posted on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 16:35

The day following his appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, President Uhuru Kenyatta returned to a hero’s welcome in Nairobi on 9 October.

Cheering crowds thronged the route from Nairobi airport. It took his motorcade more than six hours to make its way to his down- town office, 27km away.

The ICC judges have three clear choices: dismiss the charges against Kenyatta, charge Kenya with non-compliance with the Rome statutes for failing to hand over requested bank statements and phone records, or postpone the case indefinitely.

Whatever the outcome, Kenyatta has won the African public relations competition because the ICC appears to have indicted Kenyatta first then gone fishing for evidence to convict him.

The government had certainly convinced the Nairobi crowds that Kenyatta was the victim of a Western court.

But the court case hasn’t stopped Kenyatta from meeting US President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly in September, and enjoying a rapport with visiting British ministers and diplomats – presumably on common security interests.

The decision by Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, to hand over the presidency to his deputy William Ruto, a Kalenjin, during his brief trip to The Hague went down surprisingly well even in opposition-dominated areas.

It was the first time in Kenya that a president had shown such trust in his deputy.

No time to govern

The paradox is that both Kenyatta and Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC for the post-election violence in 2007 and 2008.

And most of the violence, which claimed more than 1,200 lives, was between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin peoples.

However, the diplomatic and legal fight against the ICC case means that Kenyatta and his team have diverted some energy from the business of running Kenya.

There, they face hard-hitting questions on security, state appointments, fiscal management and devolution.

The government is struggling to manage the new constitution, which devolves funds and powers to the 47 counties.

Ethnic hostilities are also rising amid rampant crime and insecurity.

Nine of the government’s 18 ministers are from the private sector, and the rest are from parastatals, non-governmental organisations and universities.

Most of these ministers seemed puzzled by the cut and thrust of politics, and the insistent demands of the press and public.

It has taken the government almost 18 months to fill some important ambassadorial positions.

Set against Kenya’s dysfunctional governance, its economy is growing robustly.

After rebasing its national economic statistics in late September, Kenya’s gross domestic product is reckoned to be $53bn, a 25% increase.

Business confidence is strong, with Kenya benefiting from East Africa’s booming economies.

The infrastructure development during the years of President Mwai Kibaki – 2003 to 2013 – has helped. ●

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