President Uhuru Kenyatta Takes Charge

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta

AFRICANGLOBE – Having taken office on 9 April, President Uhuru Kenyatta has compromises to make. The deep political differences, so evident in the elections in March, were well hidden when President Uhuru Kenyatta delivered his maiden speech to parliament on 16 April.

A few hours earlier, the 18-month-old Supreme Court announced that it would not deliver its ruling confirming Kenyatta’s election victory. Instead it directed people to its website, where it had posted its lengthy and controversial conclusions.

On the previous weekend, influential businessmen close to Kenyatta had brokered a meeting between the new president and his rival Raila Odinga.

Newspaper photographs of the two masked the fact that attempts by Kenyatta and his team to find common ground Odinga had been unsuccessful.

This means that despite the pomp and circumstance of Kenyatta’s election victory, the court ruling and his inauguration on 9 April, the supporters of Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, who make up nearly 50 percent of the electorate, remain largely outside the new political order.

There is a growing movement urging Odinga to run as an MP again.

Kenyatta’s speech, like much of his campaign, sounded statesmanlike and sent strong signals to the market. It was all about promoting growth, infrastructure expansion and his commitment to the devolution of government.

There was more joy for the markets when he rejected the MPs’ calls for yet another salary rise and warned of the dangers of the growing public sector wage bill.

Despite business enthusiasm for the Kenyatta government, his officials will have to strike some tough compromises. They want to continue with his predecessor Mwai Kibaki’s tax-and-spend strategy, which created growth but also a rising fiscal deficit.

Before he can make much progress on the economy, Kenyatta will have to tackle looming political problems. The first is how to satisfy deputy president William Ruto’s expectations.

Repeated postponements of the announcement of the cabinet in mid-April suggested negotiations over appointments were proving difficult.

Ruto secured a pre-election agreement that he would be allowed to name half of the cabinet appointees.

Shifting Testimonies 

Ruto and Kenyatta are also tied together by their looming trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for organising violence after the 2007 elections charges which some observers see as Western meddling in Kenyan affairs and an attempts to divide Kenyans .

However both men appear to believe that the cases could fail – with witnesses withdrawing or changing testimony – before they are due to come to court.

Ruto’s appeal to the ICC to allow him to use a video link to attend his trial, which begins on 28 May, may signal the limits on his and Kenyatta’s willingness to cooperate with the court.

Although he did not back the decentralisation provisions in the new constitution, Kenyatta assured Kenya’s 47 new governors that he would not obstruct the devolution of power.

Treasury insiders privately argue that the high costs of devolution are a good reason to slow decentralisation plans. That would be unacceptable to Ruto’s supporters in the Rift Valley, who would see any failure to implement devolution as a betrayal by Kenyatta and his Mount Kenya allies.

On the side of the restive governors is Kenyatta’s rival, Odinga. He has made it clear his next battle is to defend the autonomy of the counties and their access to treasury funds. With his Orange Democratic Movement elected in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, Odinga holds some important cards in the changing political system.


By: Parselelo Kantai