First, a Disclaimer: this is not an endorsement of the candidature of Uhuru Kenyatta for president. I know because of my last name, it might be taken for granted that I would automatically support and vote for him on account of ethnic considerations. Not so. None of the candidates so far has impressed me sufficiently enough for me to make a decision on who gets my one vote. Not yet anyway.
On the other hand, I want to make it clear that if I should decide to vote for Uhuru, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There has always been the perception that if a Gikuyu supports Uhuru, then they are being tribalistic. I do not hear the same charge against people from other ethnic communities when they support candidates from their community. There are obviously some double standards here, but that is a subject for another post.
However, let us remove our heads from the sand for a minute and agree that barring any roadblock regarding the ICC matter, this election will indeed be a two horse race between the Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta. And when that time comes and it is just the two of them on the ballot in the run-off, Kenyans from all walks of life, including myself, will have to make a decision on whom to vote for.
So, what does Uhuru Kenyatta need to do in his presidential campaign to bolster his chances of winning this election in 2013?
Uhuru Kenyatta introduces his son, Muhoho Kenyatta to President Mwai Kibaki at a past function
1. Engage positively with all ethnic communities
There appears to be quite some hostility about his candidature from ethnic communities that support Raila Odinga, particularly in the Nyanza region. I think he needs to do more of what he did when he went to Ndhiwa during the by-election campaigns in support of The National Alliance (TNA) candidate.
He needs to demonstrate to the Luo in particular that his presidency will be all inclusive, that they will not be sidelined as they were by the administrations of his father, President Kenyatta and his successor President Moi.
His personal differences with Raila should not be an issue in this campaign. He might not get the votes he needs from that region, but the fact that he is seen as friendly might give him a boost.
2. Talk about his family’s wealth and how it benefits the community
It is no secret that Uhuru and the larger Kenyatta family are fantastically wealthy. Obviously, this has been the subject of a lot of heated debate by Kenyans, many of whom live below the poverty line and can only dream of such fortune. While Uhuru himself may be a likeable personality, his family is viewed largely as aloof.
Does all that wealth benefit anyone outside the family and its employees? Does the family engage in any community social responsibility activities? Do they have a foundation that say, educates kids from less fortunate families? Are there families that have piped water in their homes courtesy of Uhuru and his family?
If all this is true, then he needs to find a way to let the ordinary Kenyan voter know. He needs to show that he can connect with regular folks regardless of his fortune. This should enhance his down to earth credentials.
3. Tout his achievements as MP, opposition leader and in government
Apart from a couple of presidential candidates, I am not hearing much in the way of past achievements and development record or whatever it is we need to hear from these people. And this includes Uhuru. I feel that we need to hear more about how his policies have helped the people of Gatundu South. We would also like to know how effective he was as Leader of The Official Opposition between 2003 and 2007 and what mark he left.
Uhuru has served in various ministries in his time in government including Local Government, Trade and Finance. At Treasury, he led that ministry in instituting reforms such as the Economic Stimulus Program, a re-engineered Integrated Financial Management Information System, reducing government expenditure among others.
If he does not talk about the positive changes that he has been able to bring about, we the voters will never know. And this is the kind of information that we require to judge his suitability for the presidency.
4. Define and sell his agenda
I know Uhuru just launched his political party a couple of months ago, and he still has to deal with the headache of getting his supporters in Central Kenya to all come together under TNA. So he has a lot on his plate. But, what exactly is his campaign platform going into the election? Does the kawaida voter know exactly what he intends to do for them as president?
TNA will shortly launch its “unique manifesto”. We will wait to see what that is about. In the meantime, I think Uhuru should break down his agenda into bullet points that regular folks can understand.
Candidates running for president of the United States do this, and it helps the voters differentiate between the candidates and what they stand for. Right now, all the Kenyan presidential candidates sound the same; they have the same sound bites, except when they are attacking each other.
5. Go easy on the arrogance when courting other political leaders
Uhuru may be very popular in his Central Kenya stronghold. But he is rubbing up his supporters the wrong way by his stubborn insistence that other political parties supporting his bid for president be dissolved in favour of his TNA.
When you are courting a girl, you do not win her by being forceful. You must “come slowly”, so that the girl does not get the impression that you are feeling entitled. Uhuru’s people need to find a less arrogant way of dealing with their supporters from the various different political parties, and come up with a viable working arrangement that will not leave anyone feeling alienated.
If he is to convince potential voters from other regions of the country to vote for him, he needs to demonstrate that he is in charge at home, and that sibling rivalry can be sorted out amicably.