I like to think that I learn something from all the reading I choose to indulge in – and in the past five years, I have read/learnt a bit about microexpressions. These are brief facial expressions that occur when a person conceals an emotion, either consciously or unconsciously. Seven of these facial expressions are universal, one of which is contempt.
Contempt is an attitude of disrespect, accompanied by intense dislike. It is quite easy to spot – it shows itself through a unilateral lip corner raise and tighten. Here are some examples:
Below is a video of Uhuru Kenyatta speaking on violence against women and general insecurity in Kenya, both of which have become noticeably worse since he took power.
I was able to spot contempt on Uhuru Kenyatta’s face at 0.05 – 0.06, 0.16, 0.25 and 0.48.
Contempt is the number one non-verbal indication of a failing relationship, because one party puts itself on a higher ground than the other, and they are unable to reach middle ground. Indeed, Kenya’s relationship with its president is failing. How do I know this? Because he is clearly contemptuous of us. What he says in that video is what he actually thinks of the Kenyan people, whom he is supposed to lead. Those remarks were unscripted – he is not reading a speech. No one advised him to say that, he did it all by himself.
In all truth, we are a people deserving of contempt. We did have post-election violence in 2007/08, we have been stripping and assaulting women recently, our private sector is one of the most corrupt in the world, and our general behavior can be very peculiar. The list of reasons is long, but Uhuru Kenyatta has no moral high ground from which to look down on Kenyans.
He is accused of crimes against humanity at the ICC as a result of the 2007/08 violence. Among these crimes is the rape of several women, and men. Yet he feels that it is okay to blame the family of a victim of a heinous crime like rape – asking what they were doing leaving the child alone with her uncles (I did not know that we stopped leaving our children with relatives in Kenya. I will adjust accordingly). Asking whether the police are in our homes to prevent crimes from happening there. Asking us what we are doing to prevent these situations. How about paying our taxes? How about voting like we are supposed to? How about electing leaders whom we (naively) expect to ensure the security of our country? How does one take up the biggest job in government and proceed to blame the electorate as if one did not know the job description?
He may be said to have done more for Brookside Dairies and his family’s other business interests since coming into power than for the Kenyan people. He turns constitutionally mandated processes into PR bonanzas to boost his ratings. He dons military fatigues whimsically, failing to regard the larger message he is sending to the people. His presidency has largely been defined by his ongoing case at the ICC, even though he promised during his campaign that it wouldn’t be.
When he was elected as president in March 2013, this is one of the things he said:
“We celebrate the triumph of democracy; the triumph of peace; the triumph of nationhood… We demonstrated a level of political maturity that surpassed expectations.”
How things have changed. Kenyans needed Uhuru to stand with us and reassure us after the recent series of terrible events, but all we got was blame and a statement that told us we are on our own. His comments are extremely insensitive and shocking, but the joke is truly on us for being surprised. How can we expect him to empathize? Many have speculated that he ran for the presidency so as to shake the ICC off his back. Perhaps they were right. Or perhaps he ran for the travel perks – as it stands, he is Kenya’s most travelled president, having made 28 trips in his first year in office – he is even thought to have exhausted his travel budget. In a country where police drive a bomb into their station, where police participate in the stripping of women, and where thugs raid police and army armouries for weapons, the biggest problem is hapless Kenyans. This is seen through his willingness to turn Kenya into a military state.
The Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, is another example of the towering incompetence we have learnt to live with under Uhuru’s reign. He has presided over atrocities like Westgate, Kasarani Concentration Camp, Mpeketoni, Wajir, Kapedo, Mandera, Windowgate among others. He remains employed despite voices from the legal community shouting that indeed, it is within the president’s power to rid us of Mr. Kimaiyo, he just hasn’t done so.
Several security failures since the Westgate attack have happened, yet Joseph Ole Lenku remains in place as the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government – a walking insult to all the people who have lost their lives, their loved ones or their property due to the unlivable nature of Kenya. This is a man who does not feel like he needs to resign for his numerous failings, yet he rushes to court when he is offended because he was called names by Ahmednassir Abdullahi. Yet again, it is in the president’s power to rid us of this man, he likely just chooses not to. In fact, he has been nominated for a presidential award. Witnessing this is the equivalent of watching a man get kicked while he is down and asking him “Utado?” (What will you do?) If this does not show us how little we mean to this government and its leader, I don’t know what will.
Kenyans have long been complaining on both old and new media that the security apparatus in Kenya needs to change – that Ole Lenku and Kimaiyo need to go. Security is firmly under the president – that is why he is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces. That is why the Ministry of Interior is under the Office of the President. He cannot shift blame on this one – one of the reasons nation states still exist is to protect their citizens/residents. If a nation-state cannot do that, it is failing.
But Uhuru Kenyatta does not care what the Kenyan people want, nor does he care what the constitution says. He has the power to act, and what he has done so far has been insufficient. He can do more, but he hasn’t.
His advisors seem as hell-bent on messing up his image and whatever goodwill he has left as he is. The Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) is, ironically, infamous for its unstrategic moves. Upon the president’s return from Abu Dhabi, this is what they tweeted: “I have been out of the country for a few days as you have seen from the selfies in the newspapers.” How arrogant, and in poor taste. While women in Kenya wept and the people of Mandera, and Kenyans at large, mourned a massacre, our president was taking selfies and attending a Formula 1 race.
They have entered online battles with CORD (please read the comments on that article to get a feel of Kenyans’ sentiments), participated in the blaming of Kenyan people for insecurity, switched the reasons why Uhuru Kenyatta was in the UAE so as to placate the Kenyan people, and can be expected to continue gaffing based on their past performance. They are constantly on the defensive as a result of their bad moves. It should worry us that they speak on behalf of the president.
They recently started a dual campaign on social media, hashtagged #MyPresidentMyChoice and #KenyaIsMe. The may even have deployed Twitter bots to promote this hashtag, as seen here. Thankfully, they have failed. A better hashtag would have been #MyPresidentMyConsequences because although he was not everyone’s choice, we are all experiencing the bitter aftertaste of Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership as a result of our poor choices, as we were warned.
Is this a man who can rightfully stand before his people and feel that he is better than them? I think not. When he said “Tuko Pamoja” as he was campaigning, he may not have understood what he was saying. Yes, he is richer than most, if not all Kenyans. Yes, he can only imagine what lives some Kenyans live, because he will never have the misfortune of experiencing poverty. But he is just as rotten as the rest of us, if not more. Here’s a serving of humble pie, Mr. President. Have a seat. Welcome home.