Why Uhuru is turning into an angry, irritable President
- MPs in the Tangatanga group have already stated they will not support a referendum and instead want the money used on development projects.
- A quiet political moment would not only have allowed President Kenyatta to achieve his Big Four Agenda but would have allowed him to manage the transition.
With a shaky political base and time running out on his presidency, President Uhuru Kenyatta is not sitting pretty.
His mood swings from anger to laughter, and he is easily irritated by criticism levelled against him.
Lately, he looks livid, and acknowledges as much, walking like a man with a huge political and social burden in a highly-indebted economy.
The president’s poise, sangfroid nature and his gentleness of yesteryear when among the ordinary people is slowly fading as the bulk of Jubilee Party MPs, who hitherto supported him, switch loyalty to Deputy President William Ruto.
That the president is outrightly facing a rebellion is now clear. On Tuesday, in an angry outburst in his mother-tongue, he promised a fightback.
Today, more than 100 Jubilee MPs will be meeting in the Rift Valley to rally together and to take on the president who had hoped for a quieter final term after trading horses with ODM leader Raila Odinga, his former political rival.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s Building Bridges Initiative, which resulted from the ‘handshake’ that ended their rivalry, has been the cause of political tension between the easily-identified Dr Ruto camp and others who gravitate around Mr Kenyatta or Mr Odinga.
The BBI had been marketed as the manifesto of the future that would heal an ailing nation.
But on Wednesday, and much to the chagrin of the proponents, a meeting organised by top government officials where MPs were to be taken through the BBI report by experts, was called off after Mt Kenya region MPs declined to attend.
This boycott came against a backdrop of a schedule released by MPs on where they would tour to discuss the BBI report.
President Kenyatta has now promised to return to the region, come January, to face his detractors: “They think I am a fool … that I know nothing.”
Despite the President having asked Kenyans to read the BBI report and make informed decisions, MPs in the Tangatanga group have already stated they will not support a referendum and instead want the money used on development projects.
While the President is yet to indicate whether he supports a referendum, and the BBI report has not called for any, the Wednesday outburst in Mang’u, Kiambu County, was an indicator that the future of Uhuru’s presidency is largely pegged on the success of this report.
Coincidentally, Mr Kenyatta is also not finding favour from Kenyans online, with people coming out to complain about his leadership style.
In the last few months alone, he has used strong language to remind all and sundry that he is in control despite his visits to the region being few and far between.
The relationship between the President and a majority of MPs from Mt Kenya region appears to be irrevocably broken.
Those who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is virtually impossible to reach the president and the few times he calls some of them, it’s always a top-down conversation.
But why they do not want to take him on directly and openly — without seeking anonymity — is another indicator that President Kenyatta could still provide a lethal sting in Mt Kenya and shape its politics.
“Apart from the two Parliamentary Group meetings we had when we were elected, I only see the President on TV just like everyone else. We understand he is a busy man but we see when he hosts leaders from other regions at State House Nairobi or Mombasa.
He can’t accuse us of going from one direction to another because we have not even been given a direction; we can only guess,” said an MP who sought anonymity.
OPPOSERS OF UNITY
Last week, over 45 MPs from the region met in Embu where they vowed to support the BBI report despite having had misgivings about it before it was released. It was this about-turn that irked the President on Wednesday.
The President’s anger is borne of the fact that his deputy, despite public pronouncements, does not seem to stop from campaigning for the presidency.
In June when he attended an Akorino fundraiser at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi, the already fed-up President expressed himself using Kikuyu dialect where he insulted those opposed to his agenda of uniting the country and halting premature politics.
A quiet political moment would not only have allowed President Kenyatta to achieve his Big Four Agenda but would have allowed him to manage the transition, which he cannot easily do without a strong powerbase.
In a hard-hitting statement which he delivered in Kikuyu, the President called the defiant leaders ‘mikora’ (the crooks) who failed to support him in his unity bid to leave a stable and a unified country, and to end tribal ethnicity.
It was not the first time that President Kenyatta had scolded the MPs.
Last year, when he invited MPs to the County Commissioner’s home in Nyeri — barely a week after they held a retreat in Mt Kenya discussing politics — he lashed out at them for trying to undercut him politically.
And earlier last month, MPs and opinion shapers from the region were summoned to State Lodge, Sagana, and the President once again warned them against premature politics.
With Mr Kenyatta’s anger always directed to MPs allied to Dr Ruto, it is not lost to observers that all is not well within the Jubilee Party.
Leaders allied to the President sympathise with him, saying some leaders do not seem to understand his mission.
Senate deputy chief whip and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang'ata said the leaders who ought to be supporting the President to realise his agenda are busy doing 2022 politics.
“One can understand his Excellency’s position. He is busy fighting corruption, channelling money into the Big Four agenda and instead of leaders focusing on that, they are busy plotting for 2022,” Mr Kang'ata said.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu believes Tangatanga leaders have offended the President by making his work harder.
“These MPs have forsaken the President and are even making his work harder in the region,” he said.
Interestingly, Tangatanga MPs, who are the majority in the region, opted not to react over the President’s anger.
How the President navigates his new challenges and whether he will use the BBI report to plot the downfall of his nemesis in his own backyard remains to be seen.
But at the moment, Mr Kenyatta looks troubled — and shaky.