Idhi nadi? I write to you as a serious presidential candidate and contender who has recently sought my vote.
Allow me, however, to begin by saluting and celebrating you. When the majority were busy cosying up, singing hymns and reciting poetry to; when they were loudly ululating for, worshipfully kneeling before, and sycophantically gyrating their hips for - when they were essentially making a mockery of themselves by supplicating themselves before, wiping the nose of and prostrating at the feet of the Moi-KANU dictatorship, you were firmly locked in his repressive dungeons. And this was for all of about nine years.
When others were busy conniving to cut a path of least resistance to succeed Moi, you beat them to it by inventing the Rainbow Coalition by boldly proclaiming “Kibaki tosha”.
And when the arrogance, hubris and political insolence of the Kibaki elite finally could be tolerated no further, your chutzpah made you the putative leader of the Orange rebellion. And so you came to spearhead the challenge to the kazi iendelee philosophy which is an octogenarian mind-set that re-affirms and sustains the status quo.
Your record as the co-Principal to the Grand Coalition government has been more chequered however. I recently wrote you using this platform to express some concerns in this regard.
Today, I write to you as the first part of my feedback to you as a Kenyan voter who has analysed what you are reported to have said at the Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) national delegates conference (NDC), what I am told you should have said and what I think you should have said.
First Jakom, please allow me to paraphrase something a leading Kenyan constitutional lawyer Wachira Maina intimated to me: there is a monumental difference between a good, sound speech and a speech that sounds good.
Your speech at the ODM NDC sounded good: talking as it did of job creation for especially the youth, improved infrastructure, quality education, quality healthcare and promising to “deliver democracy, the rule of law, prosperity, unity, inclusiveness and equality.”
It, in addition, optimistically endorsed the formation of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) as the political formation that would take over Kenya’s leadership at the forthcoming elections.
I applaud the fact that you went to re-state that the forthcoming elections must be free, fair and peaceful. It is also laudable that you asked all presidential contenders to come together in a show of unity to reassure Kenyans of their commitment to free, fair and peaceful elections. I clap when I hear you speak about the full implementation of the 2010 Constitution and issue a clarion call that your defining vision is about “jobs, jobs and jobs.”
I am glad that you seek to address social insecurity which you define as manifested by corruption, poor policing, muggings, extortion by armed gangs, insecurity, cattle-rustling, land clashes, poor health and education, strikes, deficient local production and food insufficiency.
I smile when I hear you speak of the Kenyan Simba, the Lion of Kenya, as our home-grown riposte to the Asian Tiger. It gladdens that you acknowledge that rule-of-law reforms as well as efforts to create a more conducive business environment by cutting bureaucratic red-tape have been useful. It is also good that you seek to re-focus the economic main-frame from its hypnosis around annual percentage growth, GDP, rising and falling inflation, investment rates, and trade tariffs and seek to foreground the issue of livelihoods for “ordinary Kenyans”. The fact that you seek to use a current cost-of-living lens to assess national transformation and progress is valuable.
You should be congratulated for speaking of: reforming the Kenya Industrial Estates so as to offer better skills training for industry; providing funds for enterprise development among “marginalized communities and other disadvantaged groups including those living with disabilities and the differently-abled”; responding to everyone’s particular employment needs and the need to provide the physical environment to allow for productivity; providing appropriate skills training and thereafter making provisions for grants not loans; the role of women as the true builders of the nation as well as stressing the progress made towards attaining gender parity; the quest to attract and devolve the world’s industries to county level so as to boost youth employment; the fact that Vision 2030 will not succeed if conditions undermining industrial peace are not addressed; the development of rural Kenya through more investment in rural and cottage industries as well as a good-neighbour system that engages the “community” to help the individual; social inclusion, social security and marketable skills; policing reforms by improving police conditions via the provision of proper initial training, sustained retraining, the opportunity to acquire wider policing skills, decent, liveable conditions, better pay and facilitating the police to also vote in the forthcoming elections; the social democratic dream that encapsulates not just education but quality education and not just healthcare but quality healthcare which is universally available through a universal health insurance scheme; social inclusion programs to address the massive socio-economic inequality bedevilling Kenya and; social cohesion so that factionalism and tribal hatred are banished through, for example, addressing poverty - and how CORD is a foundational building block underwriting political cooperation and coalition-building among Kenyan leaders and also signifying the “biggest step Kenya has taken towards real unity.”
This, however, is just the start Jakom: please also allow me to shoot straight in the spirit of constructive critique. Your thinking and message can be sharpened; making it a good, sound speech. To your advantage is the fact that you are still at the preliminaries of the contest; unlike the final race when you will need to be at full tilt, right now you can jog to the finish line as you go through the paces of qualifying. Usain Bolt does not needlessly tire and exhaust himself chasing records during the preliminaries of the Olympics; this is strategically left to the final stages of the competition.
You still, then, have time on your side to shape and bring out your ‘A’ game. Next week, Jakom, we shall examine how. Ero kamano.
Mugambi Kiai is the Kenya Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA). The views expressed in this article are entirely his own and do not reflect the views of OSIEA.