ALM Person of the Year 2017 - Political Leadership: Scrapping the Bottom of the Barrel

Open Letter to the Editors – African Leadership Magazine (ALM).

With results of Kenya’s October 26th re-election finally adjudicated by the country’s Supreme Court (SCOK) that was essentially cowered into ruling in favor of the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta (and William Ruto), it boggles the mind that your publication, of evolving heft and gravitas I might add, would countenance the former crimes-against-humanity suspect as one of its “ALM Person of the Year 2017 – Political Leadership” award contestant.

Maybe the magazine should add “Notoriety” somewhere in the foregoing criteria for nominating (and awarding) the honor.

Does Africa have such a dearth of political leadership that the magazine would consider someone whose CV includes being implicated in arguably the worst crime any one can be accused of?

And the push-back that he, Uhuru Kenyatta was “not charged” or “not convicted” by the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not wash, certainly not with me. Gambian Fatou Bensouda withdrew charges against him because of the very qualities he amply demonstrated during the run-up to the August 8th election AND October 26th re-election:

Doesn’t it bother the publication that Chris Msando, the Acting Director of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) for the electoral body Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was murdered just weeks before the August 8 elections and one Moses Kuria, MP for Gatundu South and arguably one of Uhuru Kenyatta’s enforcers, identified as “a person of interest”?

The late Msando was responsible for ensuring the integrity of the IEBC servers that stored the verified vote totals. The opposition NASA argued that they (servers) had been hacked and the vote totals manipulated in favor of Uhuru Kenyatta.

With this background, how does refusal by the electoral body (IEBC) to allow independent verification of the contents of the server, as ordered by the SCOK, reflect on a Kenyan incumbency whose predecessors have a history of retaining power by any means necessary and how does this chain of events reflect on Uhuru Kenyatta’s commitment to free, fair and transparent elections – the very cornerstone of democracy and democratic ideals?

For the record, the courts cited as one of the reason for annulling the August 8th results, (IEBC’s) refusal to grant access to the servers – because they had been “electronically manipulated to assure a victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta” – this a direct violation of the “democratic rights” of the opposition.

How then, does the ensuing name-calling, intimidation and threatening of the supposedly co-equal and independent (members) of Kenya’s Judiciary – by Uhuru Kenyatta – “contribute to deepening democracy and democratic ideals”?

Still on the point about an over-reaching executive, maybe ALM should heed the reservations expressed during the vote for the AU Chairmanship early this year.

Among the reasons cited for Amina Mohamed’s failed bid for the position were (a) whether her closeness to Kenyatta would affect her objectivity and ability “to stand up to Uhuru if elected”, and (b) her rabid criticism of the International Criminal Court, not wholly on merits, but because the institution was trying her boss. These two elements are absolutely essential for a viable and credible democratic space i.e. standing up and speaking truth to power AND holding the powerful accountable without deigning to short-circuit or de-legitimize the investigatory & judicial process.

What of the blatant use of excessive force by Kenya’s law enforcement – against the mostly opposition-leaning strongholds of Nyanza, Western Kenya and slums – Kibera, Baba Dogo, Kawangware etc. – again in violation of the (democratic) ideal the publication touts as one of the metrics it looks at to determine the winner of the award?

Doesn’t the panel find it ironic that the very police brutality Africa decries in places like America and western Europe find tacit support in Kenya?

It is equally ironic that the disproportionate use of force Africa repeatedly accused Israel and the racist South African government of against Palestinians and against black South Africans during apartheid has found a welcoming home in Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kenya and what does African Leadership Magazine do in response?

The magazine offers the very person who commands, leads if you may, the forces that mete out the same violence against unarmed civilians, including children as young as six months old, agitating for their democratic and civil rights or inside the supposed safety of their homes, a platform/award to showcase said “leadership” skills!

The corrupt, authoritarian and hyper-ethnic leadership that Uhuru Kenyatta has embodied since he took office in 2013 but even more so, recently, have debased the office of the president, which in my opinion, was already under water. Incredulously, the man has somehow managed to lower the benchmark for what constitutes competent, incorruptible, accountable and inclusive leadership.

I have previously written why Uhuru Kenyatta did not deserve the presidency, first in 2013 but even more so, in 2017. However, he was somehow “elected”, then “re-elected” and “re-re-elected” during both election cycles!

In a nutshell, Uhuru Kenyatta is the very leader most of us who did not support him knew he always was: a divisive, corrupt, and incompetent less-than-compassionate person.

His commendation of the 3rd worst law enforcement apparatus in the world, coming after very public and repeated displays of police brutality is a combination of tone-deafness and utter indifference to the victims of the brutality.

The way I see it is this:

Having the track record Uhuru Kenyatta has compiled – just during his first term in office – SHOULD disqualify him and anyone from consideration for the award.

That ALM embraces a person whose tenure has embodied incompetence, corruptibility, lack of accountability and divisive rhetoric and leadership calls into question African Leadership Magazine’s definition of “political leadership” and brings me back to where I started:

Does Africa have such a dearth of political leaders that the magazine would scrap the bottom of the barrel and include someone whose CV includes being implicated in crimes-against-humanity?

Indeed Chinua Achebe was right about the lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree!

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