alexa Uhuru can learn from Pope Francis how a new leader charms critics - Daily Nation

Uhuru can learn from Pope Francis how a new leader charms critics

Saturday April 6 2013



The other day I stumbled on a cassette which turned out to be a recording of the funeral of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

One of the most striking things about it (apart from the very high quality of speeches and prayers by the Muslim and Christian clerics which seemed of a far better standard than the fare we see from prominent religious leaders these days) was a song by one of the choirs.

“Mzee sauti yako hatutasahau na maisha tutakumbuka macho yako makali kama ya Simba (Mzee, we will never forget your (booming) voice and your gaze which was as fierce as a lion’s)”.

The song summed up the strong, dominating alpha-male character that Mzee Kenyatta was.

During the campaigns, Uhuru Kenyatta was very much his father’s son. He was aggressive, focused and ruthlessly effective. But he can’t afford to govern like his father because he takes office with a very complicated mandate.

There are several paradoxes in Uhuru’s success in the last campaign. His margin of victory is bigger than Barack Obama’s triumph over Mitt Romney.


Obama won by four percentage points while Uhuru enjoyed a seven percentage point gap over his nearest challenger. I belong in the camp which felt going into the election that a victory for Raila Odinga would have improved ethnic relations in the country.

But I conceded defeat the moment I saw returns from just two polling stations in West Pokot and Baringo.

Quite simply no single ODM analyst expected victory while losing the Kalenjin and allied Rift Valley communities’ votes by 95 per cent.

The contention that the election was rigged on a massive scale may be therapeutic but there are few facts to support it. Uhuru won the election when communities where Jubilee support was considered soft such as the Kalenjin broke so strongly in favour of Mr Kenyatta.

Flawed mandate

Yet Uhuru’s mandate is flawed because of its exceptionally regional character. The plurality of Kenyans probably supported Mr Odinga. It’s just that they did not register or vote in numbers that would have reflected this.

Mr Kenyatta has the formidable challenge of reaching out to those shocked and disillusioned by his victory. The one thing he cannot do is govern like old Jomo who was more emperor than President. He must adopt a much more conciliatory approach. He should completely abandon his table-banging campaign persona.

One place to start will be to reverse the decisions Kibaki’s men have adopted in recent days. Threatening foreign journalists is not only a dumb thing to do but it is guaranteed to backfire. It’s far better to engage them in a battle of ideas or let “Kenyans on Twitter” tackle particularly outrageous fare.

The decree from Inspector General David Kimaiyo during the Supreme Court hearings banning Bunge la Mwananchi meetings was simply absurd.

Uhuru’s advisers would do well to study the approach taken by Pope Francis in the last few weeks. The man is a PR genius. “Pray for me before I pray for you,” he urged the gathered masses when he made his first appearance as Pope. That statement of humility immediately won him the warmth and affection of the people.

Every day has brought a new surprise from the “people’s Pope”. He dresses more simply than his predecessor, washes the feet of prisoners, sits at the same level with his visitors and has refused to move into the palatial Pope’s mansion instead living in shared quarters and having meals with Vatican workers.

Uhuru can soften the hostility of a large mass of Kenyans with simple gestures in his first 100 days in office. Times have changed. He can’t afford to display aggression and tower over the people with macho makali kama ya Simba.

Murithi Mutiga is the Special Projects Editor, Sunday Nation [email protected]