EDITORIAL: Closing of ranks essential to drive policy reforms

Tuesday December 5 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta during his inauguration for a second term on November 28, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By The EastAfrican
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The swearing in for a second term in office of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta brought an end to a long-drawn-out contest for the country’s top office – fought strategically in boardrooms, intimidatingly along the streets and persuasively in courtrooms.

Looking forward during his inauguration, President Kenyatta underscored that the country needed to quickly forge forward through unity, hard work, inclusivity and the rule of law.

In those four pillars, the president broadly captured the challenge facing his last term in office – that of healing the rifts widened by one of the longest elections in Africa.

His expressed willingness to work with leaders across the political divide to achieve the objective of nationhood lays a foundation of hope, unlike his call for “courage to embrace the future by freeing ourselves from the baggage of past grievances.”

While subject to interpretation, the latter statement could betray a tendency to dismiss as inconsequential the concerns of the opposition over marginalisation in the allocation of government largesse, including jobs.

Such an approach would be foolhardy, especially after the opposition boycotted the polls over fear the outcome was predetermined in the president’s favour. While the matter of electoral justice has been resolved under the letter of the law, it is the big elephant in the room is the court of public opinion.

Global leaders who attended the inauguration urged the president to heal the country. From Gabon to Zambia, from the UK to the US, the delegations suggested electoral reform was essential.

Domestically, this has brought back the question whether Kenyan democracy should be of a parliamentary or presidential nature.

In the eyes of the international community, however, the question is more of how elections in Kenya can be shorter and more efficient as is the case in Rwanda in order to avoid disruptions to the national and regional economy.

What is not clear is what form the dialogue would take, especially after President Kenyatta backed the resilience of institutions to resolve crisis such as that posed by the poll paralysis.

But while all may be well on the legal front, there is upheaval on the social front. For starters, one in 10 of registe