If Uhuru Kenyatta does not win re-election, he will have served for four years and four months as the President of Kenya. That will be the shortest stint anyone has served at the highest office in Kenya so far. These days, Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, spend all their time on the road soliciting for votes. The duo is in a draining battle to save their political lives. To the most devout of Uhuru’s supporters, even the thought of the possibility of the president’s defeat at the hands of his arch nemesis, Raila Odinga, is taboo. One year ago, it seemed like Uhuru’s second term was a mere formality, the talk then was about the 2022 election. The opposition was in disarray and disintegrating. A year down the line, the opposition coalition, NASA, has put their house in order and is giving the ruling Jubilee coalition a spirited fight. Now, Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency appears to be under siege.
These are the sunset days of the first term of the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency, yet, most Jubilee supporters do not yet realize how precariously desperate the situation is for the president in the forthcoming election. But you cannot blame them. For a long time, the president and his cohort had been oozing bravado and smugness. However, the president and his men do realize their tenuous position and are not taking anything for granted. To the credit of Kenyatta and Ruto, they have put up an energetic and a spirited fight for the presidency. If the circumstances dictate they campaign in a small shopping center in Kitui or scrape for a few votes in opposition strongholds, they are ready to do so. If a few allies fall by the wayside in the process, so be it. The priority for the president is to win the presidency, everyone else comes second.
Election years are stressful for any politician seeking office. For Uhuru Kenyatta, this is even more stressful as he juggles national crises, campaigning, and dispensing the roles of the president. While he has been quite effective in campaigning, he has been an atrocious administrator and even worse managing national crises To make matters worse, 2017 has been a horrible year for the president and the country. As the curtains close on his first term, Uhuru Kenyatta has had to endure a battering. At two specific points in his presidency, Kenyatta has appeared to falter. During his first year as president, Kenyatta appeared to be out of his depth as crises engulfed the nation. But the president can be forgiven for that. He was new on the job and was still testing the knobs of presidential power. During the middle part of his presidency, Uhuru’s grip on power tightened, the president was unassailable and Kenya’s star shone brightly. At the height of this period, Obama visited Kenya, the pope came, TICAD VI was hosted in Kenya, the economy grew, Uhuru purged the cabinet for corruption allegations, the president signed a bill to lower cost of credit, and many projects were launched.
The president’s grip on power at the dusk of the first term has however loosened. Or at least, the president’s final year is as bad as his first. Perhaps, it is the creeping fatigue and complacency that comes with being in charge for an entire term. Or it could be that during election years, everyone’s attention is diverted from the economy to politics. Whatever the case, Kenyatta has not had a good final year. January 2017 started with the stinging defeat of Amina Mohammed’s, Kenya’s foreign minister, bid to head the AU. Uhuru Kenyatta staked a lot on that expedition, which seemed like his personal quest to win ascendancy in the AU. You can tell it was so important to him due to the excessive resources and time dedicated to achieving that goal. At the end of the day, the president, and Amina Mohamed suffered a humiliating defeat.
Then came the labor strikes. The doctor’s strike that seemed like a routine dispute evolved into an ugly confrontation that was allowed to go on for too long. The final resolution was a pyrrhic victory, neither satisfying nor sustainable and it is only a matter of time before the deal falls apart. And it is not only doctors, lecturers spent over a month out of class in January and February, and they are threatening to do so again. Nurses too have downed tools this year. Then came the drought. Pictures of dying people in dry and desolate places in Kenya were beamed all over the world and shared across the internet. Then there was the slaughter of Kenyan soldiers in Somalia. The president did not even have the spirit to say something to his men. Let us not even talk about the corruption scandals that have come to be the emblem of all that is wrong with this administration. Inflation has also spiked this year. Economic growth has slowed and started to regress. Job losses have piled. But the most embarrassing episode this year has been the biting maize shortage caused by utter incompetence, possible corruption, and myopic approach to planning by the government. The drought, which is blamed for the shortage was forecasted more than six months before the maize shortage began. The government has gone as far as blaming opposition supporters of eating more ugali to cause a shortage. And it is only July.
That is not to say this government has not achieved, in fact, if we are fair, they have done quite a lot. Security has improved significantly; there are no more terror attacks. They have connected millions to the electric grid. Big and small infrastructure projects are in different stages of implementation. Huduma centers have improved delivery of public service. But the most towering and perhaps the most underlooked achievement of Uhuru Kenyatta lies in foreign policy. Kenya had little international standing before Uhuru came into power. The president has brought a new glow on Kenya’s image in the international arena. This will bring many benefits in the long run, including increased foreign direct investment.
Go to the next page to see what the president’s chances of re-election are.