Over the last five years, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been at the forefront in urging that Kenyan politics should shift from personality-oriented politics to an embrace of issue based politics. He has urged the opposition to shun politics of insults and avoid incitement of ethnic hatred. His trademark call has been for the opposition to challenge the Jubilee government by articulating an alternative policy platform and to show the track record by leaders of the opposition when they served in the government.
In a dramatic change from this mantra, the President has over the last one month been at the forefront of embodying the very ills he has been preaching against. During his visit to Turkana and Mombasa Counties, he has engaged in personalised attacks against Governors Nanok and Joho. In a mockery of his constitutional role as a symbol of national unity, the President has hurled personal insults at leaders of the opposition without any provocation.
Defying his own previous plea for leaders of the opposition to champion national unity and not incite ethnic hatred, the President while on a visit to Kisii County tried to resurrect the ghost of the 2007-2008 post-elections violence. Given the fact that the wounds from that dark chapter of Kenya’s history are yet to heal, it is ill-advised for the President to take a lead role in fanning the embers of ethnic hatred through finger pointing and blame apportioning. It is also a mockery of the victims of the post-elections violence given that the International Criminal Court had pointed at the President and his deputy as the persons who bore the greatest responsibility for the violence. It must be recalled that their trial was only terminated due to unprecedented acts of witness tampering and intimidation thus the court never cleared the duo of responsibility for the crimes.
As Kenya enters the last stretch of the electioneering period, the President must rise to the occasion under offer leadership to the nation. The Constitution designates his office as a symbol of national unity and therefore the President must make every effort to prove to Kenyans that he deserves that responsibility. His calls for politics to be based on policy platforms and not name calling and incitement to ethnic hatred must be matched with action.