Critics of President Uhuru Kenyatta tend to cherry-pick and amplify his perceived failures while playing down any successes. And comparisons of his legacy with those of his predecessors tend to ignore some starkly different challenges each administration had to deal with.
In an election season in which the President is trying to manage his succession, the trash-talking can only intensify in the coming months.
The President should, for example, expect quite a bit of mud to be thrown at his national security legacy due to the attacks in Laikipia in recent weeks. Yet this is one instance where he deserves the disparagement he gets.
Elected in 2013 while defending himself against charges related to the ethnic-inspired post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 at the International Criminal Court, he pledged to ensure such chaos is not repeated.
Yet far too many Kenyans in various parts of the country continue to live in fear of ethnic violence. Flare-ups of violence involving Maasai and Kalenjin communities have claimed lives and rendered families homeless in parts of Narok and Nakuru in the past three years.
Residents of Kapedo in Baringo are perhaps not feeling any safer now than they did in the 1960s and 1970s under the administration of the incumbent president’s father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Every now and then, Pokot raiders crawl out of the bushes with their guns, spray villagers with bullets and drive away herds of cattle.
Reports about the presence of the Pokot guys in Laikipia, where armed herders occupied ranches, killed seven people in two weeks and torched houses, suggest the region remains largely a dangerous bandits’ playground. The authorities also appear to be conflicted in dealing with the politics of insecurity in these parts.
A former MP accused of inciting the violence is reported to have been among local community leaders who attended a security meeting convened by Interior ministry officials in Nairobi hours before he was arrested.
The other suspect, a sitting Member of Parliament, chairs a key House committee and rubs shoulders with powerful people in and out of government.
The timing of the Laikipia attacks, increasingly close to elections, and the targeting of members of particular communities for displacement should be another cause for concern.
The historical grievances over grazing land are clearly being exploited for political advantage.
Some politicians, most likely uncomfortable with the ethnic demographics there, are attempting to suppress the vote.
If the vote suppression campaign in Laikipia is allowed to succeed, politicians in other multi-ethnic areas might try similar games and make it a much bigger problem ahead of the 2022 elections.
But it is worth repeating that President Kenyatta promised to stop a recurrence of instigated ethnic violence. Only that the scenes from Laikipia are ominous.
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