In his 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave one of his best speeches yet. But what was striking was his apology to all Kenyans over the wrongs his government and all the previous governments had committed. This was in-part, a fulfillment of the TJRC recommendations that demanded the President give a public apology.
In that speech the president having stated what he was apologizing for said, “I seek your forgiveness and may God give us the grace to draw on the lessons of this history to unite as a people and, together, to embrace our future as one people and one nation.”
First-forward to post 2017 polls and the police were back at it again, just like in the past using extreme force on otherwise harmless Kenyans in the slums whose only mistake was being poor and living in the ‘wrong part of the country’ and of course supporting the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA). Clearly, God didn’t grant us the grace and we didn’t learn anything from the past.
If apologies alone could change a country, Kenya would’ve been way ahead of her peers. Forget that 2015 State of the Nation Address; just before elections the president apologized to residents of Rongai during a meet-the-president tour where he appeared genuinely disturbed by the state of the roads, telling residents he didn’t know it was that bad otherwise he would have done something about it.
In short, there is no president in the Kenyan history who has been more apologetic than President Uhuru Kenyatta. And this year’s State of the Nation Address was another dose of apology. While this time round the session appeared livelier to watch compared to the previous ones, it still missed the public mood by a mile.
President Uhuru Kenyatta urged leaders to realize the role they’ve played in promoting the huge rift in the country and once again proceeded to ask for an apology, if we thought he played any part in that rift. And that’s what was wrong with that speech.
Firstly, as many commentators have already pointed out, whenever apologizing it is imperative that you don’t use ‘if’ anywhere in your statement as it denotes lack of appreciation of one’s blunders that warranted forgiveness in the first place. When apologizing, one assumes you realize the role you played in making the other party offended; in this case the increased inequality gap, corruption, tribalism, nepotism and cronyism among other ills that have bedeviled Kenyans.
Since the President took over in 2013 and the continuation of his regime through Jubilee following the October 26th polls we have witnessed corruption scandals from the much publicized NYS saga, to the Afya House scandal that has robbed the public coffers millions of shillings. We have seen patriots who people and institutions counted on for a free and fair elections die in unclear circumstances like the IEBC Commissioner, Chris Msando. To date, the family of the IEBC ICT Director has not found closure. The case is as good as cold since the police have not made any headway on the criminals.
In the immediate post August 8th elections, majority NASA supporters who were pro-opposition suffered greatly, losing lives, some barely a year old like baby Pendo of Kondele, Kisumu City. These families too have not received any retribution. It’s the reason that preposition ‘if’ in the president’s speech is problematic.
The president should have asked for forgiveness without the conditional ‘if’ same for his deputy and other MPs who jovially shifted from their seats greeting one another as they offered meaningless apologies to one another.
His (President Uhuru) family was implicated in the Sh. 5billion Afya House scandal. His Deputy has been allegedly linked to high profile corruption scandals from land grabbing of Lang’ata Primary School and the land belonging to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) land among others. These matters have not been satisfactorily closed.
As the two, top most civil servants in the country, one expected that their apologies would be very candid and direct. You can’t offer an apology that’s not specific and aimless unless it’s another political rhetoric much like the previous apologies.
Additionally, mentioning the handshake without clear and detailed information on what the president and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga discussed that goes to the heart of the people is nothing short of balderdash! And so is the appointment of the 14-member committee under the auspices of building bridges initiative. Needless to mention that there was no face of the youth in that committee. Another contempt card on the majority youth.
Someone once mentioned that the best form of apology is change of behavior. What we require from President Uhuru Kenyatta is to see corrupt people behind bars. What we want to see is a reformed police force, where those who use extreme force killing students or roughing them up are presented before a court of law and charged. What we want to see is a government that respects the rule of law and the separation of powers between the three arms of government. Honestly, however well intended, Kenyans are tired of apologies that are hollow.