opinionBy Koigi Wamwere
As people consider President Kibaki's legacy upon retirement, that legacy must include not just his presidency but entire political career. A leader's legacy does not cover partial but whole of his or her public life.
While people might write their partial legacy entirely favourably, posterity is a better judge because, uninfluenced by money and power, it is objective, thorough and impartial. Therefore, it matters less that Kibaki has been advertising his legacy in expensive pull outs of the Nation, Standard and Star newspapers making money out of a dishonest job. Lasting legacy is never bought with money.
Legacy is somebody's life's balance sheet that must show assets and liabilities, successes and failures, credit or debit. A balance sheet of assets alone without liabilities is not a legacy. It is a lie which can be bought with money. Let us now look at some of Kibaki's liabilities and compare them with his most publicised assets.
One, overall, President Kibaki has been a weak leader who suppressed his conscience to survive dangers of one-party dictatorship. To get along Kibaki has never taken risks of leadership that are associated with leaders like Dedan Kimathi, Jomo Kenyatta, Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela who sacrificed greatly for the cause of freedom, justice and country. With a dwarfish conscience, Kibaki allowed the man in him to die and never did anything truly memorable.
Two, when Kenyans wanted Kibaki to lead them against the tyranny of Kanu, he turned them down and stuck with dictatorship. Consequently, many Kenyans called him "General Kiguoya" or "General Coward."
Three, Kibaki's politics was characterised by an attitude of taking extreme caution or "sitting on the fence" over risky questions. He only took sides when the safe side was clear. While some called this cowardice, Kibaki's admirers called it wisdom that won him the highest office in the land winning the favour of whole communities and elites. It remains to be seen whether this "wisdom" will win him lasting legacy as well. In judging his legacy, I will say Kibaki and his ilk committed grave errors that saddled Kenya with her terrible calamities of dictatorship or impunity, poverty and underdevelopment.
Four, Julius Caesar said cowards die many times before their death. Kibaki too must have died many deaths whenever the lion of dictatorship roared near him. Many times I saw Kibaki in Parliament tortured by fear and indecision. The incisive say Kibaki has lived his life like a queen bee, doing nothing for but receiving a lot from the country. How well does he compare with JF Kennedy, the late president of America?
Five, some time after he joined politics, leaders of the left like Bildad Kaggia and Oginga Odinga said Kibaki joined the Kenyatta led team of bad leaders that destroyed Kenya's development and democracy with brutal one-party dictatorship in the name of fighting communism.
Six, in judging Kibaki, posterity will not forget that, when Kenyans were risking jail, detention, exile and even death to end Kanu one party dictatorship, he called every second liberator "mad man of the market that was trying to fell a fig tree with a razor blade."
Seven, Kibaki has been praised as a brilliant economist. But his 'Kibakinomics' have kept Kenya poor and backward when other Third World countries were industrialising and joining the First World. 'Kibakinomics' has given leaders and elites freedom to grab and rob, enriched a few, impoverished millions and has afflicted thousands in his Central province backyard with jiggers. Same 'Kibakinomics' has allowed the country to lose Sh367 billion annually to corruption that has flourished under Kibaki's watch. 'Kibakinomics' even hired Mackinsey Ltd to dream Vision 2030 for Kenya! In the meantime, foreign companies have had a field day minting trillions in Kenya.
Eight, when the Kikuyu said: "when the leader limps the flock does not reach pastures", it could have been in reference to Kibaki leadership.
But to his credit, Kibaki just finished opening super Thika Highway. Yet even this may not save his legacy because, when in the 1960s during the great debate between capitalism and socialism in Kenya, Odinga and Kaggia called for economic cooperation between Kenya and socialist countries, Kibaki and Mboya stood gallantly opposed. Whenever one sees Kibaki, one wonders where Kenya would be today if Chinese road builders had come to Kenya earlier, 49 years ago?
Nine, unbeknown to most people, Kibaki entrenched ethnic rule and encouraged his ministers to turn their ministries into dens of ethnicity. Accordingly, the Kibaki government shared public funds and top jobs ethnically, to communities according to their political loyalty and numerical strength. Those who did not fit into clear ethnic definitions like all residents of Nakuru were simply left out of the cabinet and other political appointments.
Ten, five years ago, Kibaki's reckless governance resulted in the worst post-election violence ever in Kenya's history that killed more than 1,000 Kenyans, created thousands of IDPs and put six Kenyans into the dock of ICC in The Hague, redefining Kenya as a failed state.
Eleven, as a single politician, Kibaki has never sacrificed career or comfort for the nation. He was never jailed for a cause, however, noble. He never dared speak truth to power. His government never pushed the Mau Mau case to world courts. He failed to tell us who killed our heroes like JM Kariuki. His government nipped TJRC in the bud. Kibaki never denied he chaired National Security Committee, when it authorised torture of political dissidents by police. Many of us who were detained by Kenyatta and Moi doubt we would have survived if we had been struggling against government of Mwai Kibaki and John Michuki.
But Kibaki supporters say all the above are outweighed by Kibaki's successes. One, he introduced free primary school education. Two, he does not go after his critics like me. Three, he revived the economy from the ashes of Moi's misrule Four, whoever dreamt Vision 2030, Kibaki claims credit for it. Five, he delivered the new constitution that was the dream of Kenyans and so many had suffered and died for.
Kibaki's legacy is not flattering. It is, however, not limited to him and ironically, many Kenyans identify and sympathise with it. Mirugi Kariuki told me because it is a reflection of what the average Kenyan has become. Long live the King, the King is dead.
Koigi wa Wamwere, Leader of Chama cha Mwananchi.