Intelligent. Kenyan.

Published: 10 months ago

Dear Uhuru Kenyatta

I hope this finds you in good health. It has been a while since I addressed you directly, but I have been busy with work, and life, you know how these things are.

I saw you in the news recently, looking visibly frustrated and complaining about corruption, as you like to do. I must say, you have really nailed the act. Well done. The delivery was quite sympathetic, and for a moment there, I almost fell for it. Allow me to quote you for reference.

“As president, if there is one issue that has frustrated me, it is this issue. And I will say why. Because the pressure is on meShow me any one administration since independence that has taken action on corruption like I have done. I have removed everybody. I have done my part, at great expense also, political, by asking these guys to step asideThen where do we go from there? They say, ‘I am innocent’. I don’t know where they are innocent or what, move aside

I have taken the actions that I can take, within the Constitution. When we sit down, and I challenge all the agencies here, they say we don’t have the resources, we don’t have this and that. I challenge them here to stand up and say we have been denied the resources we need The Judiciary, I even have no role. I challenged them and they wentbut yet I stand accused that the executive is not doing enough. Ladies and gentlemen, what do you want me to do?

We have the Auditor-General who says Eurobond money had been stolen What do you want me to do? I did not appoint you, I can’t even sack you. Corruption is just being used as a political circus. Do you expect me to go and set up a firing squad at Uhuru Park so that people can be happy? Are we not a country that respects the rule of law…? If we as Kenyans want to make progress, then we as Kenyans must do our part. The only question we should ask is, have we been given resources we need. And the answer is yes. Even in the last budget, we added you money

And those charged with investigating. Stop the blame gamedo your job.”

As you can imagine, people didn’t take this well. But I saw this for what it may actually be – a cry for help, and thought I should answer your questions.

It is true that this issue frustrates you. That is, if your facial expressions whenever you address the issue are to be believed. What is not true, however, is that there hasn’t been an administration that has taken action on corruption like yours has. You see, in the work most of us do, we measure outcomes to establish effectiveness. Thus your colleague could have worked for 2 hours and she generates 20 sales, while you worked for 5 and generate only 10, and you would not be able to tell your boss that you work harder than she does. Because that doesn’t mean anything for the bottom line. It’s sad, but that’s how things work. You sir, have corruption at between 25 and 27, (out of 100) based on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index. This is similar to Daniel arap Moi’s era, which many (including myself) would call a dictatorship. Do you work harder than Mr. Moi? Perhaps. But your results are the same, and given the direction we are going in, yours are getting worse. This is not a comparison we should even be able to make.

You are quite adept at pointing fingers and shirking personal responsibility, and you have done this with the Judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Auditor General, and your employer – Kenyans. You are one of the few people in the world who is able to fail to meet most of your performance targets (that you set for yourself, lucky you) and still get to keep your job, enjoy its benefits AND blame your employer. Imagine for a minute that the guards at State House let in thieves (oh, the database was down, CCTV wasn’t working) and blamed it on you. You’d laugh, right? These things could be true, but it is still their job to ensure that you and your staff are safe. They should be scrappy and figure out a way to do this anyway. That’s what you pay them for. You’d probably even fire them. So how come you don’t get this about your role?

You ask repeatedly what we want you to do – we want you to do your work. And that is the work of leadership. We are facing multiple challenges as a country – corruption, poverty, insecurity, inflation, poor infrastructure, unemployment, poor healthcare and education, violence against women – and are desperately in need of serious leadership to help us solve them.

You need to be able to have a bird’s eye view of the problem as opposed to being on the ground pointing fingers with everybody else. You of all people do not get to do this. The people have vested their power in you – you are the head of state, and you lead the executive branch of government. You do not get to complain like the ordinary citizen given all your power – that is patently unfair and quite possibly immoral. Once you have a bird’s eye view of the problem (by being on a higher ground), you will be able to spot the patterns that have brought us to this sad, sad place. These patterns may be operational, or they may be strategic. Can you imagine that by doing this alone, you will be able to identify the “mashetani dark forces” that plagued you in 2012? Not so bad, hey?

You are called to do greater than get caught up in the field of action – your work is that of a visionary. Do our value systems need to change? Our work systems? You need to set the stage for radical change, and set the people and events necessary in motion. You will inevitably run into a lot of pushback, and cause many people who benefit from the status quo distress. But that is how you actually know that what you’re doing is working. Your work is now to balance the levels of distress with the work that needs to happen. To ensure that people understand that with their positions in government, there are tradeoffs that will have to be made for progress. For each of them.

The first to go is the idea of exulted leadership. You and your staff instead need to embrace the idea of servant leadership, and realize that you serve at the pleasure of the Kenyan people, and are their agents. You need to unify them on this principle, rather than divide them by pointing fingers at them – that is no way to lead. You need to imbue them with the confidence to do their jobs. You need to protect the leadership and the voices of those that come from below you. Since you are the president that means everyone else in your government.

There are well meaning, effective people that are good at their jobs in government. Many. The reason they are not felt is because you have not given them the confidence, and the assurance, that you will have their backs as they do their jobs, even when their work means painful consequences for the powerful and those close to you. How do I know this? Because you may have asked people to step down, but what happens after that? Do they get arrested? Do they get prosecuted? Do they get jailed? Why is that? We haven’t seen you saying this at every event you attend: “Arrest, prosecute and jail corrupt public officials!” Why?

Instead, you fly to Israel to represent us, your employers, and call us “experienced in stealing and perpetuating other crimes.” How do you think this makes you look as the leader of such people? Especially given that members of your own family have been implicated in a multi-billion shilling theft scandal from the Ministry of Health? Or are you going to say you didn’t know? How can you have your lackeys busy saying that it is your family’s right to transact with government when it clearly goes against the law of the land? When companies like Safaricom are running competitions, they do not allow the relatives of people working in the organizations putting the competition together to participate, because they realize that there is a conflict of interest. Is Kenya not greater than Safaricom? Why are you so keen on hustling backwards?

You may say that what I ask of you is hard, but it has been done before. Successfully. There is no shortage of role models. You just need to look around our continent to see them. You have Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, and my favourite, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara.

Thomas Sankara, who ruled for only four years and was only 37 when he was assassinated, embodied the transformational, accountable and revolutionary leader we need in our country today. He embodied the vision he had for the Burkinabe himself. He had high integrity, and thought deeply about the role of women in his society (he outlawed polygamy, FGM, forced marriages, and hired women to top positions in his government) and climate change (he launched a tree-planting program to stem the advance of the desert on fertile land, and more than 10 million trees were planted in its first year). He also fought actively against corruption and indebtedness to our former colonizers. He was a man of letters, who clearly articulated his thoughts and hopes for his people, and he was extremely committed to the spirit of nationhood, and to his people. (Please note that this doesn’t mean wearing a Kenyan-flag-themed wrist band and leaving it at that).

He believed strongly in the self-reliance of the Burkinabe, and of other African states. He eschewed foreign aid, fought for debt reduction and cancellation, reduced the IMF/World Bank footprint in his country, and championed local production and consumption of these goods/services over importation. He enabled every village in Burkina Faso to build a medical dispensary, and over 350 communities to build schools using their own labour. He built almost 100 km of rail with little external assistance, and total cereal production rose by 75% between 1983 and 1986 (they were plagued by food scarcity before that).

Thomas Sankara knew that leadership started with him. He was disciplined, and voluntarily declared his assets and handed over to the treasury the gifts he received during his travels. He also made it clear to his relatives that they were not going to receive special treatment because he was president. He also did not engender any fanfare due to his presidency – and was keen to lead an average life. He even slashed his salary to US $450, making him the lowest paid leader in the world at the time. This is not to say that he was not without flaws – he had many, but he also took responsibility for them. Nobody wants you to be perfect, either.

This is the kind of leadership our country needs if we are to have a chance at becoming the people we say we want to be. If we are to live the dream the Mau Mau fought for. Our freedom is not free – many lives were lost so that we could have this country, and each day our country operates as it does is another day we spit on the graves of those who died, and in the faces of those who fought that are still alive.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

William Shakespeare

You need to take up the mantle of accountability yourself. We need a great leader, and there is still enough time for that to be you. Remember that history is very unforgiving, and will judge you harshly for your failings of the Kenyan people. What you will have done and failed to do will not be undone. There will be no one singing your songs, and we will see you plainly for who you were, and there will be many others to compare you with. Some who, like Thomas Sankara, chose greatness. I hope you do the same.

Sincerely,

Brenda Wambui

42 Comments.
  1. Jruria says:

    Wooh. Pretty harsh for our Mr. President. I say…Rome was not built in a day. It takes time to change the culture of a nation. So far he is doing well. Lets give him a second term so that he can keep up with the good work.

    • You are either terribly optimistic or you live in another Kenya, Jruria. The one we live in is in shambles, and we can’t afford to give him more time.

      • Kenneth says:

        You ask repeatedly what we want you to do – we want you to do your work. And that is the work of leadership. We are facing multiple challenges as a country – corruption, poverty, insecurity, inflation, poor infrastructure, unemployment, poor healthcare and education, violence against women – and are desperately in need of serious leadership to help us solve them.

        Brenda, your article engages my mind alot, for the first time I have developed an interest towards blogging, do you mind we engage on providing possible solutions towards these? Am looking at problem solving. I hope the President gets to read solutions that we suggest aswell. Better still other like minded people will contribute towards solutions and we will come up with a movement of problem solvers.

        My thoughts…on corruption we have systems to address them and we are getting clever aswell…our system says one is innocent until proved guilty…I understand In France one is guilty until proved innocent once adversely mentioned. Would such a system really work for us? What other options do we have? On poverty and unemployment…the government should create more industries, I appreciate the fact that we have attracted foreign investors, we need home made solutions towards unemployment like creating a favourable environment for entrepreneurship and encourage this ( a culture to build). This kind of sharing is what am looking for. Let’s engage if possible.

        Keep up with the articles.

        • Hey Kenneth, thank you! I gave some suggestions to Kenyans here: http://www.otherwisepodcast.com/episodes/episode-14-dear-kenyans/ perhaps this may interest you? Check it out, lemme know what you think. I do like that one is innocent until proven guilty in Kenya, the only problem is that it is applied properly when it comes to the poor, but not to the rich or corrupt. I think we need a culture of applying the law evenly regardless of financial stature, then we will begin to see its benefits. Exactly – re government and industry. It is their work to create an environment in which private citizens – both local and foreign – can build businesses and subsequently lead to out prosperity. I’ll definitely keep writing, keep reading!

    • Maco says:

      Just out of curiosity…do you read newspapers? Watch the news? Talk to people in your hood? Do you have any clue about the looting and plunder of public funds that Uhuru has overseen in his first term? Yes. Overseen. Because the buck stops with HIM.
      What on earth is your definition of doing well? How low have you set the bar for your president? (Is the floor too high?) Sheesh!
      Nice writing Brenda.

    • George Onkeo says:

      Heck NO. Second term for what and to do what? To enrich his family further? Please tell us another one. This President and family have insatiable appetite for free things. Literally stealing from us.

  2. Chumbi says:

    Spot on Brenda. We deserve more and we should not let the people in power forget this. Keep writing.

    • Brenda Wambui says:

      Thank you Chumbi! Keep reading! 🙂

      • Isaac Kelvin Onyango says:

        Brenda this is one letter I loved more than a love a letter. If I was to rank it only the bible would would beat it for obvious reasons. Other than congratulating you for this great insight and wisdom I wanted to let you know that I read this letter for my self, for my own life as a Kenyan and for my building as a leader one day. If anyone made you feel its too harsh I write to make you feel its the best I ever have read from a sober Kenyan. Thank you and Congrats.

    • Kenneth says:

      Chumbi. What are you doing where you are to have a better society? Am interested in making a change where possible

  3. Adam says:

    Good piece… Very good piece. But like all Kenyans, we have opinions about what our president should do, how he should do it… We are like people watching a football match, hurling orders at the players on what they should do..and we think we know it all and can do better… Well sadly, we know NOTHING about being a President. None of us does. Otherwise, I am yet to hear Kibaki blog about what Uhuru should do…

    Our President and his team have been operating in the trickiest of ages, the age of Transparency. The age where news travels faster than sound, where a small hickup becomes a storm at the click of a button. And hence with the freedom of speech and expression, we feel we can judge (not saying you are judging on the article above) we blog and say what we think.
    We have a case where, the government has been exposed for what it has always been, a corrupt one… And our human nature directs us to point fingers when things are thick. When it was Mois era, we blamed him. When it was Kibaki’s we blamed him. We appoint the leaders, but the same people who worked in the moi era are the same that are in this one in that same gov, and they have taught the juniors on “the way of the gov” (Notice : not all of the government workers, but some)
    We want to ask the president to dictate, yet we had a dictator before and loathed his ways. We want him to imprison the corrupt ones in gov, yet when you get a speeding ticket, you’d rather bribe with that 1000 than go to jail for the rest of the day.
    God didn’t put Uhuru there by Mistake, he has a purpose. No leader has had to deal with a new constitution and such transparency, so many opinions, hate speech so real and broadcasted openly… Like every leader, he needs our help.he needs advise like the one on this article, and we need to be here for him and with him. He is as human as we are, and needs as much help as he can get.

    Let us Unite and work together… #Try that for a change Kenyans.

    • Hi Adam. Thank you. I am inclined to believe that you and the rest of us live in totally different Kenyas, given that all I speak of is right in front of our eyes for all to see, so unless you choose to interpret it differently, the evidence that our country is headed in the wrong direction under his leadership is clear. Someone once said that the road to Kenyan hell is paved with “At least…” At least he’s trying. At least he’s talking about it. Well, that is not enough. We are here because of “at least” and to get out of this position, we have to do our duty as citizens and demand better. Nothing less. I urge you not to make excuses for this man, but instead help create a better Kenya for future generations by asking tough questions and demanding better.

    • Kenneth says:

      I like your line of thought Adam. Suggesting solutions to problems that have already happened. UK needs us to play our part which is not easy but very possible. Are you doing something about it now? Am interested if you are of if you have ideas too.

      • Adam says:

        Brenda, you wrote this article and by force of human nature, you are inclined to believe and stick to what you wrote. So you are right, we will need to demand. We want to demand and what we want is what we are so willing to not sacrifice to get. I live in the same Kenya, the same one you do,experience the same huddles.

        My reasoning isn’t that of demand… My reasoning is that of Unity. Again, I will tell you FOR A FACT, and I hope you are a leader somewhere to experience what leadership is all about.

        There is no best way to do things, because there is always war on either side.be it law, ethics or morals, someone will always oppose and another propose…

        Kenneth, Brenda, What if instead of pushing for eviction, we push to work together with our government to better it.
        What if we had an avenue where the president sits with some of his people and just had a chat on ideas on what to do.

        How many times have you met your governor and actually shared some of the things you feel need address? How many times do you actually sit with your boss and talk to him about what you think should be done about the business for it to grow? For it to mature.
        We can’t all sit with the president, that would take years, but we can have an avenue… A platform… Where its the office of the president taking notes, listening, being adviced and being accountable. Leadership by service. Do I make sense??

        • Kenneth says:

          Adam, I like the idea of working together and seek avenues to share more ideas. Adam, you do make sense. I look forward to sharing the platform you have in mind. I want to celebrate what we have achieved and appreciate our potential as a country.

        • Check out my response to some of the questions you’ve raised here: http://www.otherwisepodcast.com/episodes/episode-14-dear-kenyans/ And yes, I am a leader in a number of capacities, so I’m not just saying this, I try to live out my suggestions each day. Though I will concede that leading a country is much harder. You’ll note I said that no one expects him to be perfect – even Sankara wasn’t. Neither was Mandela, or Lumumba. We expect him to live out what he asks of us. To lead by example. I’ll tell you for a fact that I’m an active citizen, and if you listen to the episode I linked to, you’ll hear suggestions for other Kenyans as well.

  4. rodgers says:

    BRENDA this is a message that he should get to the president.

  5. josmod says:

    Excellent piece Brenda wairimu, this should reach the president. Message well delivered

  6. Dan says:

    So in your judgement, of which I selectively assume is sober, where exactly has our president failed? Instead of glorifying other presidents who had no impact on your life, why not outline specific areas in which our president has failed and how you think he could have done better. Not just saying “fight corruption” “help women” “plant trees”… Surely you should know better, no? Try playing a game of chess with that kind of reasoning and I assure you of a fool’s mate Brenda. “Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things”. The fabric of our nation has been corroded and marred over decades of impunity, wanton leadership anongst other vices. Expecting a superhero fairytale president to step in and save our country in 4-5 years is wishful thinking at best. Open up your eyes! The problem is not the president. The problem starts with us citizens. Change in this country can only begin with it’s citizens. From the bottom of the pyramid all the way up. Not the other way round.
    PS: Constructive criticism is better than casting stones and lighting torches.

    • Rose says:

      Hi Brenda. Keep on writing. Well thought. Our country need people like u in order to move ahead. Believe you me anyone negative about your letter is related to the president.

    • I assume you can read, Dan. Answering your question would necessitate I re-write my post, word for word, which I won’t do. Instead of rushing to come to the comments to try and sound smart/condescending, perhaps you could read more about logical fallacies (specifically tu quoque) and confirmation bias, which you are indulging in here, and which are hallmarks of lazy thought. Lastly, because I engage in the work of thinking, of course I made suggestions to Kenyans as well. They are here: http://www.otherwisepodcast.com/episodes/episode-14-dear-kenyans/ I hope that you’re not just all talk, and will actually go and listen to what I ask of Kenyans.

    • Kenneth says:

      I like the thought that change begins with us as citizens. Do we have measures to force this change in us as citizens? Enlighten me if you know of such possibilities in our great constitution, one that defends us all regardless of our errs. Let’s keep trying as citizens, one day at a time and may the president lead by example where he can. I know it’s not that easy but again he needs to do all that he can with what he has.

  7. Wesley says:

    Brenda a good piece indeed…And this Article only ,sought to tell the president please offer insightful leadership…not always crying that “Mnataka nifanye nini Jameni”…Blaming the constitution…while always making political appointments with the same people from previous govts,Expecting different results…So maybe he should Appoint People who are Born in the 80’s and they wont fear Working with him….

  8. Chege Kairu says:

    I concur with you Dan

  9. Andrew says:

    Well articulated. Nice piece. Good research and to the point. Kudos love it.

  10. David says:

    Hi Brenda, I feel you are trying to appeal to his need to leave a legacy or go down well in the history books. I find that is the least of priorities for your regular African leader especially if it means compromising his top priorities which are reelection and keeping his friends happy. Shame seems to be a nonexistent feeling for our African leaders.

  11. Maxwell says:

    Brenda,

    A well thought out, balanced piece. I do hope it reaches the president.

    But it ain’t for him alone, I have personally benefited from it, and I hope other Kenyans have/will.

  12. Jared says:

    Great piece Brenda Wambui……..you are the few people we can count on in this country…..keep doing your part.When we do ours ,we will change this nation.

    Unfortunately, I can’t figure out where to find your blogs,your contacts or just anywhere I can interact with your articles

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