With slightly over a month before the first general elections under a new constitution, I have assessed the candidates for Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya, and I have no doubt in my mind in my selection of Narc Kenya's Martha Karua as my choice.
Martha Karua always had a head start in my mind's eye, as early as February 2011, I registered under her Narc Kenya party because she appealed to my vision of a candidate. I nevertheless withheld making my endorsement for the 10 months following, giving other potential candidates the opportunity to surprise me. And while there were a few surprises along the way: Raila's embrace of Kalonzo, or Mudavadi's surprisingly good interview on BBC's Hard Talk, Peter Kenneth's flawless launch for presidency, and even Johnson Sakaja's brilliant defence of the Jubilee Alliance, none of these were sufficient to sway my vote.
On March 4, 2013, I therefore intend to cast my vote for Ms. Martha Karua and here are my reasons why.
Martha Karua is the candidate who is most likely to solve Kenya's number one problem - impunity. I'm certain that many of you would argue that unemployment, corruption, or even tribalism are more deserving of the number one position. In my opinion these are all symptoms of the root problem of impunity.
Impunity is defined as exemption from punishment or loss, and this is a phenomenon that has become so entrenched in our national culture with the effect of allowing all these other social-economic ills to thrive. We are all perpetrators of impunity despite the majority of us being its direct victims.
Politicians, civil servants, and wheeler dealer businessmen rob the exchequer because of impunity, multinational companies expatriate profits that could have built Kenya because of impunity, 3,000 lives are lost every year due to impunity by road users, pharmacists in rural hospitals stock their private chemists with government drugs denying paid up NHIF contributors medication, pastors cohort with prostitutes and fleece their congregations, men refuse to maintain their children after separating with their wives , electricity companies charge exorbitant rates , real-estate investors build substandard and dangerous abodes , restaurant owners serve up food unfit for human consumption, policemen run bars within their stations and end up drinking all day, house helps are paid Sh.1,500 for 450 hours of work. The list goes on and on.
How does impunity end? Impunity ends when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) applies the broken window theory in his prosecutions; which means all offences no matter how small and particularly those that affect the standard of living are prosecuted. Yes, many of us will end up with rap sheets longer than our CVs but by doing so we will have saved a nation. With the end of impunity 33% of our budget will stop going into corrupt networks and contribute to economic growth, young people will have a fair chance at making it whether in employment or self-employment, and Kenyan lives will stop being so cheap to be thrown away because of others' greed, incompetence, or indifference.
Of all candidates who have offered themselves only Mama has the prosecutorial zeal and and has unabashedly declared that she will provide the political will and executive power to operationalize what has been a muted DPP in order to stamp out impunity.
Martha Karua is the candidate who has exhibited the most astute fiscal management ability. Now, I'm sure many of you will argue that Peter Kenneth has the best track record in the management of CDF, but I believe that spending is only half the equation in fiscal management, the other half is raising revenue. And when it comes to raising revenue and spending this revenue to achieve maximum effect Martha Karua is miles ahead of her nearest competitors.
She has proven her fiscal management in the very effective and efficient manner that she has been running her Narc Kenya party. In their last financial year, Narc Kenya reported expenditures of approximately Sh. 13m with which they managed to reach over 40 counties! If you compare that with the profligacy of Uhuru's TNA launch that reportedly gobbled up Sh. 160,000,000 in a single day you can judge for yourself who can handle better handle Kenya's meagre revenues.
Martha Karua is the candidate who stands for something - the rule of law. It his her most endearing attribute to her supporters and the one that has her opponents gnashing their teeth in contempt. Since she famously walked out of former president's Moi's function she has shown herself unbowed in her belief in constitutionality.
But it is not only what she stands for, but the fact that she stands for it. Many other presidential candidates have shown themselves to be fickle in their principles and feckless in driving any ideology except for that of "it's our turn to eat". I want a president who will not only paint pretty pictures of unicorns and rainbows for all Kenyans with consultant designed manifestos, but who will stay in the trenches when the implementation going gets tough, and rough it out to make their promises come true.
I would like to stop there, but I'm afraid I will leave some of you skeptical. I am declared partisan so it would be easy to dismiss my opinions as just that. To allay that possibility, I will go ahead and describe why I will not vote for any of the other top 3 candidates.
Starting with Raila Odinga of the Cord Coalition.
Mr. Odinga is a force to reckon with in Kenyan politics, that is not debatable but I will surmise that his many political talents would be best utilized as the leader of the opposition. This is the one skill in which Mr. Odinga has no equal - keeping the government on its toes. And it is this skill that historians will take note of when recalling the legacy of Mr. Odinga. It is his opposition to Mwai Kibaki's gross executive over-reach that delivered and helped implement our current constitution. The sweetest manifestation of this implementation being a reformed Judiciary with Willy Mutunga at its head.
Despite the above, Mr. Odinga is most unqualified to become Kenya's 4th president. He has unproven managerial capacity as is evidenced by the Kazi kwa Vijana scandal among others during his Prime Ministry, he is a demagogue of the first class - he will say and do anything to attain power - most critically associating with Maina Njenga in the false believe that this would win him central Kenya votes, and he is crippled by his lack of forthrightness in his source and magnitude of his wealth. His running mate Kalonzo Musyoka despite being an articulate speaker is also a colourless and opportunistic individual whose legacy in his 30 years in politics will be that he embarrassed Kenya internationally with a failed shuttle diplomacy, perpetuated the political crisis following the December 2007 elections with his canvassing for a VP position, and failed to conclusively resolve the perennial water crisis in his native Ukambani.
Next I will move on to Jubilee Coalition's Uhuru Kenyatta. Mr. Kenyatta has matured tremendously in politics since the last decade when Moi attempted to have Kenyatta succeed him. He has also shown grace in loss in 2002 and cunning strategy in stepping aside in 2007 for Kibaki. Mr. Kenyatta has also built a formidable political party in barely half a year full of young people with vim, verve and vigour. He might have been an attractive candidate but for the following irredeemable shortcomings.y
The ICC. His supporters will wish it away, but all the arguments that have been made against Mr. Kenyatta on this matter - whether or not they actualize - are serious enough to disqualify him without further consideration. Whether it is the threat of sanctions, the integrity issues, or the incapacity to govern - as a candidate for Kenya's most powerful job - by picking Mr. Kenyatta will not get value for our vote. My biggest concern however is the shroud of impunity that will suffocate our entire country from the very top echelons if Mr. Kenyatta ascends to office. After all, if my president is accused of rape, murder, and forceful eviction and yet still occupies the highest job - what stops everyone else down rung from going about their lives with the same haughty disregard for morality and ethics? Secondary but equally damaging to his candidacy is his outsized land holdings, which were mainly gained by his father through an inequitable process. If he had stayed away from politics, then I would buy the argument that he is just taking care of what was bequeathed to him through no fault of his own. But because he chooses to become a public servant, then his continued ownership of the land is irreconcilable with his stated desire to lead a just and fair Kenya. Last and equally bad is his unimpressive running of the Ministry of Finance. It was during his tenure that we saw gaping holes in the budget which point at gross incompetency in fiscal management or something more sinister. His running mate, William Ruto in contrast is undoubtedly a performer - but that alone does not make a good leader, for a good leader must always put his best effort in the service of those he leads. Mr. Ruto however has been associated with allegations of gross self-enrichment ranging from grabbing of a post-election violence victim's land to being the main driver of YK92 which severely damaged our economy and resulted in stratospheric inflation. Mr. Ruto also bears the ICC baggage and cannot be trusted to implement a constitution which he so vigorously opposed.
Thirdly I will examine the candidacy of Eagle Coalition's Peter Kenneth. Mr. Kenneth remains middle class Kenya's favoured candidate for his astute management of the CDF in Gatanga, his relatively unblemished public record, and his telegenic personal attributes. I nevertheless find him unsuitable to hold this office, basing my reasons in the realm of verifiable fact only and not other rumours regarding his impressive rags to riches story. Chief among these facts, is his apparent conflict of interest in the acquisition of public property owned by Kenya National Assurance Company while he oversaw its liquidation at Prudential Bank. In addition the fact that alleged drug lord Harun Mwau and former president Moi who oversaw a kleptocratic regime are some of his biggest clients for his Mayfair insurance company means that his entire wealth portfolio is likely tainted with drug money, or corruption money.
Finally let me address the issue of wasting my vote. Too many times, I have heard people say that voting for Martha Karua would be wasting a vote because she has appeared to have slim chances of winning according to opinion polls. I would counter that the real wasting of a vote is when you vote for someone you do not believe in - you would do better to abstain. My vote for Martha Karua is not a wasted vote, because through my constitutionally granted suffrage I will make a difference. I will vote for the end to impunity, good governance, and for the rule of law. I will vote for Martha Karua.