Kenya Presidency 60 Years on


By Blamuel Njururi, Kenya Confidential Editor in Chief, Nairobi – September 10, 2022

In three months Kenya will turn 60 years since declaring herself a republic on December 12, 1963 after gaining independence from the British. She has since been led by four Presidents as heads of state and Commanders in Chief of the Armed Forces.

Kenya, a former British colony attained internal self-rule on 1st June, 1963 following negotiations between Kenyan leaders and the then British colonial government at Lancaster House, London. Negotiations had taken place for a period of three years, between 1960 and 1963, with Kenyan representatives being drawn from the two major political parties then, the Kenya African national Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU).

From a purely academic historical perspective Kenya was declared a British colony on July 23, 1920and had four British monarchs as her head of state and government. They were, King George V 1920-1936, King Edward VIII 1936, King George VI – 1936-1952, Queen Elizabeth 11 – 1953-1963.

Kenya attained full independence on 12th December, 1963. Since independence, has had  four presidents namely Jono Kenyatta 1963-1978, Daniel arap Moi, 1979-2002, Mwai Kibaki – 2003- 2013, and the outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta 2014-2022.

The 20st century Republic of Kenya is totally different compared to that of 19th century. The country of over 53 million inhabitants has a boisterous economy within East Africa. She has struggled to upliftthe living standards of her inhabitants with varied experiences to different ethnic groups living in 47 semi-autonomous administrative Counties.

Mzee Kenyatta’s Kenya

The 1963-1978 Kenya led by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, faced the challenging task of Africanising the management of the country in a manner of actualising internal self-rule. He changed the country’s politics of multi-party at independence and Kenya became a dictatorial de-facto one party system after two decades when the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Act of 1982 introduced Section 2A to the Constitution, which converted the country into a single-party (Kenya African National Union (KANU) state.

The late President Jomo Kenyatta – Kenya’s first president 1963-1978

Kenyatta laid a firm industrialisation foundation of the country by setting up industrial estates that were intended to boost manufacturing and value addition of agricultural products. Indeed, Kenya became the industrial hub of the then East African Community (EAC).

The East African Community succeeded the East African Common Services Organization on December 1, 1967 and was established by the Treaty for East African Co-operation, signed in June 1967 by the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

By the time Kenyatta died in 1978, Kenya had become the economic giant of East and Central Africa with a sound manufacturing industry serving the region and far apart. Her agriculture was unmatched within the region exporting textiles, meat and horticultural products to European markets.

Raymond Woolen Mills in Eldoret manufactured very trendy woolen double-breast suits featuring its worsted and hosiery yarns, which were exported to European capitals. Kenya politicians and business executives would go to London’s prime Marks & Spencer Supermarket and buy suits only to discover the ‘Made in Kenya’ labels on arrival in Kenya! Raymond Woolen Mills, after 34 years in Kenya, was de-registered for flimsy ground of non-renewal of trade licence fees in 2001.

Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) was exporting beef products to Europe and African armies as its bacon counterpart Uplands Bacon Factory exported pig products. Kenyan flowers adorned many offices and homes in Europe.

Daniel Moi’s Kenya

Under Kenyatta’s successor Daniel Moi, who took over in August 22, 1978, Kenya became an autocratic republic that to a large extent curtailed freedom of expression and the media after the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Act of 1982. The amendment under Section 2a to the Constitution constitutionally prevented Kenya from being a multi-party state until the year 2020.

President Daniel Arap Moi

On the economic front Kenya swang towards a pariah state. The national economy took a nosedive whose negative effects in doing business in Kenya would haunt the country for decades.

The Moi government however, expanded education across the length and breadth of her borders. Towards his 24 years of his tenure he also restored political pluralism. The abolition of section 2A of the constitution, which had prevented Kenya from being a multi-party state, triggered strong appetite for democratic reforms.

Mwai Kibaki Kenya

Mwai Kibaki literally resuscitated the economy and introduced free primary education, reduced dependence on foreign loans with a yard stick of prudent financial management, mapped out Vision 2030 and introduced a high sense of patriotism.

Kenya’s 2010 constitution yielded a more democratic impulse. It created office of a Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers, and an expanded twin chamber parliament. After being abolished in 1966, the Senate was re-established by Article 93 of the 2010 Constitution to represent 47 counties’interests as well as pass legislation concerning the counties.

Kibaki government introduced major infrastructure network as part of national development scope envisioned in Vision 2920 with hitherto neglected parts of expansive Northern Kenya enjoying the Lion’s share.

  • President Kibaki is best remembered for his style of ruling which was a low-key publicity averse but as a highly intelligent and competent action-oriented technocrat.
  • His presidency set itself the main task of reviving the country’s economy after two decades of stagnation.
  • Being an economist and finance minister in the 1970s, he ensured that Kenya was well managed, competent, and much transformed during his tenure.
  • During his reign, Kenya’s economy experienced a dramatic turnaround.
  • The GDP growth picked up from a low of 0.6% (real −1.6%) in 2002 to 3% in 2003, 4.9% in 2004, 5.8% in 2005, 6% in 2006 and 7% 2007.

Uhuru Kenyatta Kenya

The fourth President Uhuru Kenyatta who will be signing off in a few days, set his eyes on multi-billion infrastructure spread across the length and breadth of the Kenyan  nation. He also takes credit for the expanded Lamu port and dredging the Mombasa part to bigger ships and a breather inland port of Naivasha.

President Uhuru Kenyatta

On the economic front Uhuru publicly admitted corruption was bleeding the Kenya economy with a daily hemorrhage of 2 billion shillings – a fact born out in Auditor-General reports showing massive plunder of public coffers.

Uhuru’s admission of the gloomy corruption state of affairs saw a knee jerk war on suspects by both the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission  (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal investigations (DCI). However, the Kenya judiciary remains the weakest point in the war on corruption in Kenya. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and Judiciary have no qualms allowing corrupt politicians to seek political positions and plunder more.

The saddest part about corruption is that the general citizenry takes corruption for granted way of life. Global corruption index placed Kenya as 30th in 2021 from 31 in 2020 most corrupt country in the world.

The Kenyan electorate does not relate lack of public utilities and services as caused by corruption. They happily accept bribes to vote for the corrupt. They don’t question unexplained wealth by civil servants and politicians who siphon away money intended for development projects – instead they plead “serikali saidia” to get the services they are entitled to as taxpayers.

In one sentence the above presidents, except partially for Kibaki, are presidents who dug Kenya into a quagmire of mud as Asian Tigers flew past.

William Ruto’s Kenya Presidency

William Ruto will be Kenya’s 5th president. he will find a huge national debt obligation that must be addressed creatively, Kenya finds herself enslaved by the aggressive interests of creditors.

With a world that now runs on robust communication technologies, realtime comparisons of what life is here vis-a-vis elsewhere, and how that can be emulated at home, will give no luxury of time to administrator Ruto to dilly-dally and engage hide and seek game with an expectant Kenyan citizenry.

Many have argued that none of the administrations can compare to the other either word for word or intent by intent. It follows that Ruto must be nothing close to all other presidents for if it does, then, we shall be back-peddling instead of progressing. That he must avoid.

Ruto has no luxury for wanton borrowing and must step back in time to audit how monies were used from Mzee Kenyatta years via his tribesman Moi era to Jomo‘s son time, in order to reclaim what has been wrongly privatised.

If anything, Ruto unlike in times gone by, has the benefit of a functional and well layered judiciary and a robust bicameral parliament to push through the recommendations of all past commissions of enquiry whose reports have gathered enough dust to grow lots of famine relief potatoes over the years they’ve laid in comatose on shelves built with public money.

Kenya is craving, yearning and indeed desperate for a National Rearmament Conference (NRC) to reset her development compass to point towards the Asian Tigers direction, who gained independence almost the same time and are today miles ahead manufacturing vehicles, electronics and IT products for global markets. That is a conference president Ruto must convene within six months to give his bottom-up economic legs to run on.

  • Can Ruto like the rest of the others, be overwhelmed by the fear of handling the harsh truth, that what one takes illegally, one must return to its rightful owners – including by himself?
  • Is parliament going to be toothless or will it have sensitive gums on dentures, or will it have real teeth to bite for us our pound of flesh?
  • Will the judiciary bury its head in the sand or will it first clean up by ridding itself of those few in its rank and file who are obvious subverters of justice?
  • What will Ruto do about Climate Change?

For Ruto to drive forward without a reverse gear and correct a stinky past is to maintain a situation akin to dressing a septic wound spilling puss and equating the bandaging to a full recovery when the patient is in anguish and getting worse off after the pain killers jab.

  • The task of comprehensively correcting Kenya’s past is squarely in the hands of whichever administration Ruto creates.Kenya has adequate laws to allow for records storage for seven years, but that is in so far as private dealings are concerned. Public records remain perpetually open. If Ruto government allows itself the luxury of complacency by hearing no evil and seeing no evil, then just like the Titanic, it will be sunk by its inability to negotiate around the icebergs underneath the rotten national social fabric.
  • The task ahead is not for the faint-hearted. It will be an act of sacrifice, devotion and dedication. Call it facing the knife all over again or facing the lion.
  • Whichever way, Kenyans expect action against the cancerous and endemic corruption. Kenya will be markedly different if the executive, the judiciary and the legislature work in tandem.
  • Mechanically speaking, Ruto must engage gear number five to cruise faster on Kenya’s economic super highway – after all he is the 5th president.
  • Time for side shows and power games within the three arms of government must end for their jobs are cut out.
  • A blank page of history stares at Ruto administration. Ruto can choose to write an enduring legacy on it or Kenya with a script fit for a circus inevitably inviting a revolution.

Last word:

Don’t miss every Saturday.

Next issue: What President Willian Ruto must do.