When the Supreme Court voided last year’s presidential poll of August 8, a furious President Uhuru Kenyatta pointedly stated “we shall revisit”, as his key ally and Vice Chairman of his Jubilee Party, Mr David Murathe, affirmed that Kenya needed a “benevolent dictator” for a President.
Indeed actions by government agents over the last couple of days seem to reflect this stance.
Following last month’s “swearing-in” of Mr Kenyatta’s main political rival Mr Raila Odinga as the “People’s President” at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, security agents have moved with speed never witnessed in recent times in cracking down on the opposition.
They have stormed houses of politicians and lawyers sympathetic to the Opposition, arrested and prosecuted them, held others incommunicado and deported the self-styled General of National Resistance Movement (NRM) Miguna Miguna to Canada for administering the oath to Mr Odinga.
Other Nasa politicians have had their passports revoked, guns repossessed, bodyguards and official cars withdrawn and literally terrorised, forcing them to seek anticipatory bail and even spend nights cowering in Parliament buildings for fear of arrest.
During these operations, there was a media shutdown of main television stations, with government agents disregarding the Constitution and court orders.
The trend prompted Chief Justice David Maraga’s stern warning that compliance with court orders was not an option for any individual or institution.
Many would have expected Mr Kenyatta to be more magnanimous and reconciliatory during his second and final term by reaching out to his political foes with a view to uniting the country.
Instead Mr Kenyatta has taken a hardline stand.
JOMO AND JARAMOGI
Mr Kenyatta’s hard tackle is a replica of how his father and founding President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, handled his Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga when the two fell out in 1967.
During that period, the senior Kenyatta placed Jaramogi under house arrest and vanquished him politically by hounding him and his allies out of Parliament and banning his Kenya People’s Union outfit altogether in 1969.
The younger Kenyatta’s tough stance has gotten some pundits pondering whether the Jomo in Uhuru has woken up – or rather whether the President has opted to adopt his father’s ruthless ways of dealing with opponents.
In a recent interview with one of the local TV stations, Mr Odinga himself acknowledged that the Kenyatta administration may be testing the waters and that he was the eventual target of the ongoing crack down.
“I am very much aware and very ready for them,” the former Premier vowed.
This is probably Mr Odinga’s lowest political moment over the last two decades.
He is – rightly or wrongly – out of power yet again, his Nasa coalition is seriously outnumbered in both houses of Parliament, his lieutenants are being pursued by the security agents and he is separately expected to exit from elective politics in the next four years amid intense succession battles in Nasa and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) outfit.
Political commentator Mutahi Ngunyi opines that Jubilee may well have embraced Sun Tzu’s tactics in handling Mr Odinga and Nasa.
The political scientist observes that when one inflicts an injury on an opponent, one must fix him completely:
“It is like a cobra snake and if you do not unleash a fatal blow, it will hit back in a more venomous way.”
The import of Ngunyi’s sentiments is that Mr Kenyatta considers his political rivals to be in a most weakened position this time around.
And because this is his second and last term in office, Ngunyi says the President is more determined to execute his plot since he has nothing to lose.
Independent investigations by Sunday Nation reveal that indeed Mr Kenyatta is destined to be a much more ruthless president in this second phase of his leadership.
According to one source who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, Kenyans are going to witness a firmer and more resolute President.
“Unlike previously when he has sought explanations as to why some things did not happen as envisaged, the President is now demanding action and not excuses for his directives,” our source divulged.
A look at the reorganised team of the President’s handlers and advisors indeed confirms this narrative.
Following his re-election, Mr Kenyatta has changed a number of aides at both State House and Harambee House Office, bringing in political advisors with relevant experience and handlers with military and public administration background.
At State House for instance, his diary is now being handled by former Administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua, who served as Nakuru County Governor until last year.
Mbugua is said to be more forceful than his civilian predecessor, Lawrence Lenayapa.
The Sunday Nation has also learnt that Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo has taken charge of administrative engagements at Harambee House, with his boss Joseph Kinyua taking the backseat.
The former Rift Valley Regional Coordinator is said to be a firmer executor of presidential directives as compared to career civil servant, Mr Kinyua.
And together with his “so-called super Cabinet Secretary, Dr Fred Matiang’i, whom he has appointed to the all-important Interior docket, all signs are clear that the President has assembled a no-nonsense team he trusts can deliver to his satisfaction.
On the Judiciary front, Mr Kenyatta has equally tightened the loose ends following the exit of Prof Githu Muigai as Attorney General.
Reacting to the ongoing crack down, Mr Murathe says the President has a development agenda to execute, and accordingly seeks a peaceful and stable environment to rollout the same:
“There has to be stability in the country for us to execute the four plan development and the President cannot be expected to sit back and see the country degenerate.”
Apparently, part of Mr Murathe and other Jubilee officials’ beef with Nasa is their perceived disrespect for the President.
Former political detainee Koigi wa Wamwere attributes Mr Kenyatta’s apparent change of tack to the “democracy versus dictatorship” discourse that emerged lately among the President’s supporters.
“While dictatorship has succeeded, although minimally, in some places including Singapore and closer home in Rwanda, it greatly stifles democracy and the people’s freedoms.
“In the worst scenarios, it degenerates into individuals framing innocent people and sending them to exile,” the former Subukia MP regrets.
The Nasa steering committee co-chairman, Johnson Muthama, separately believes Jubilee’s hard tackle will backfire as “it will only give us the excuse and much required motivation to fight back”.
Muthama, whose passport has been revoked by the Immigration department, says this is a terrain too familiar to the Opposition.
“All the constitutional gains made in this country, including the Bill of Rights and various freedoms now enjoyed by Kenyans, have not come easy. They have been achieved through demonstrations and battles with the State,” Muthama says.
On the flipside, the President’s newfound tough image is inconsistent.
While he has come down heavy on the Opposition, he has exhibited a softer side on individuals allied to his government and Jubilee Party.
Although in private he has reportedly expressed displeasure over the performance of some of his Cabinet Secretaries and other senior government officials, he has sacked none.
Instead, the President chose to give them a soft landing as ambassadors.
This is in contrast to his dealings in his first term, where he directed CSs mentioned in corruption cases to step aside.
And even in instances where some, like Charity Ngilu were exonerated, he did not reinstate them.