It’s natural for new regimes — I use the word “regime” and not “government” advisedly — to look over their shoulder. That’s because unlike governments, regimes suffer from deficits of legitimacy. Some regimes are completely illegitimate. So, while looking back is understandable, a regime that has its head permanently twisted, or craned, at 180 degrees is standing on quicksand.
And the more it wiggles, the deeper it sinks. It’s early days, but I’ve been watching the UDA regime with both pity and alarm. Pity because it doesn’t seem to know whether it’s going or coming. Alarm because Kenyans deserve something better. From where I sit, I see a regime mired in crises of insecurity, empty puffery and lack of confidence.
During political campaigns, opponents attack each other and the sitting regime with vociferousness. Often, the successor regime continues to attack its predecessor as a way to mask its own policy bankruptcy or to buy time to start thinking straight.
This is one tactic to consolidate power. You attack your predecessor to legitimise yourself, or at the very least to blind the people and lower their expectations. You want the people to forget your lofty – but empty – promises.
This is politics, and isn’t illegitimate itself. But it could be pernicious if its purposes are nefarious and camouflage undemocratic impulses. In other words, are the head fakes designed to buy legitimate time, or a sign of cluelessness about governing, or sinister?
Symbolic handover of power
You can measure an incoming regime’s insecurity by the shrillness of its voice, or the crudity of language. The first sign that the UDA regime had trouble fitting in the saddle came at the symbolic handover of power by Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta to UDA’s William Ruto. Rigathi Gachagua, Mr Ruto’s numero dos, let fly language unbecoming for the lofty occasion.
An UDA factotum sitting behind Mr Kenyatta kept on shouting “freedom is coming!” I chalked up most of this juvenile conduct to irrational exuberance. But then the invective has continued to drip from the mouths of senior UDA honchos months after the fateful day. This in itself is a sign of inner weakness and vacuousness in the incoming regime.
But it’s what has subsequently happened that has exposed UDA’s soft underbelly.
First out of the gate was Mr Gachagua. Often, Mr Gachagua leaves tongues wagging, or a lot of head-scratching, when he takes to the podium. You can see wheels turning in his head as he tries to come to terms — and actually believe — that he occupies the office of Deputy President.
Usually, he launches intemperate broadsides, virtually all unprovoked, at Mr Kenyatta or Azimio’s Raila Odinga. If I was to take count, I would say that Mr Gachagua has spent inordinate amounts of time attacking Mr Odinga, and very little time promoting, or expounding on, UDA’S policies. Simply put, Mr Gachagua is obsessed with Mr Odinga.
More recently, Mr Ruto has also bared his fangs at Mr Odinga. It appears the last straw that broke the camel’s back is the matter of the “IEBC Four” — the commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, who rejected Wafula Chebukati’s attempt to unilaterally declare Mr Ruto the victor of the August poll. Clearly, the IEBC Four didn’t want to go along with the opacity and illegal conduct of Mr Chebukati.
It was clear to them that Mr Chebukati was carrying water for Mr Ruto. Now, Mr Ruto has decided to punish the IEBC Four for executing their mandate in good faith. He’s openly attacked Mr Odinga for seeking protection for the four. Mr Ruto has openly taken sides in a matter under inquiry.
It’s a no-no for Mr Ruto to weigh in on the matter of the IEBC Four. He irredeemably taints and compounds the illegality of the kangaroo process at the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee on the four commissioners. But Mr Ruto has gone further. Often, when he speaks, Mr Ruto presumes to tell Azimio what to do or say, when, where, and how to do it.
Political Science 101
One would think Mr Ruto would understand Political Science 101. In a democracy, even a pretend one, the top Executive cannot openly interfere in a matter of the gravity of the IEBC and take a side where his party is leading the prosecution of the case in the legislature. That collapses separation of powers and creates a dictatorship.
It’s becoming clear by the day that UDA’s regime is governed by insecurity. The fellows don’t understand, or know, what to do with the instruments of power. If you look at a slew of issues – the IEBC Four, drought and lack food, daylight muggings and insecurity, runaway inflation, unaffordability of basics – the state is at sea.
Meanwhile, Mr Ruto and his top factotums have taken to weekly prohibitive boondoggles abroad packed with cronies and hangers on. Yet the UDA regime has asked – don’t laugh – Kenyans who are stretched to the breaking point, to contribute to hunger victims. It even unilaterally took money off the salaries of the Kenya Defence Forces. Very strange and insecure.
Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.