The news of the week was the inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the fourth president of Kenya, succeeding Mwai Kibaki who, after 50 years, retired from politics. As we welcome a new government, how should the country remember the departing president, beyond the way his staff have been asking the country to?
Kibaki was, by far, a better manager of the economy than Moi before him. He brought order to the management of public affairs, a departure from the rather informal style that characterised the Moi regime.
Kibaki’s push for free primary education remains an important achievement, as will the revival of key economic institutions such as the Kenya Meat Commission and the Kenya Cooperative Creameries, ruined during the Moi-era.
On regional affairs, Kibaki continued with the legacy of his two predecessors, keeping Kenya out of war.
Given Kenya’s relative economic strength in the region, the temptation to flex some military might, like Uganda periodically does, would have been understandable, but Kibaki wisely resisted this.
In the end, though, the incessant threats by Al Shabaab forced a reversal of this policy, when Kenyan forces made an incursion into Somalia in October 2011. Still, under Kibaki, the use of military force was restrained and responsible.
However, Kibaki was not all success. Having come to power in 2003 on an anti-corruption platform, he set up two commissions, the Bosire Commission on the Goldenberg scandal and the Ndung’u Commission, which investigated irregular land allocation.
However, the reports were not implemented. Further, the Kibaki administration was rocked by a corruption scandal of its own, the Anglo Leasing scam, involving his close associates.
John Githongo, an inspired appointment by Kibaki for an anti-corruption czar, resigned from the government in 2005, citing lack of support from the president. As he leaves office, therefore, the fight against corruption remains unfulfilled.
An issue that has only recently emerged, and there is ever-increasing evidence, is the linkage between corruption and drug trafficking. The book by Peter Gastrow, Termites at Work, released last year, provides a perspective on just how serious this problem has become.
For the first time, there are suggestions that high profile politicians, normally involved in corruption, are also implicated in drug trafficking. The claim that the death of former minister for Internal Security George Saitoti is linked to the fight against drug trafficking would, if true, lend credence to these assertions.
It remains unclear if the retiring president was ever briefed about the alleged involvement of members of the government in drug trafficking and what his position on the matter was.
During the campaigns, Deputy President William Ruto spoke strongly about the fight against drug trafficking. It remains to be seen whether a sophisticated approach to this issue will actually be employed by the new government.
But, perhaps, the most controversial aspect of the Kibaki tenure will always be his relationship with senior politicians of his day, particularly Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
The context of this complex relationship includes the post-election violence of 2007, whose roots go back to the dishonoured Memorandum of Understanding between Kibaki and Raila in 2002.
The quarrel over the MoU directly led to the break-up of the Narc government, after which Kibaki showed Odinga the door and invited the opposition to rule with him.
The effect was that the opposition, rejected at the polls, joined government while Raila’s faction, validly elected to power, was consigned to the opposition.
Kalonzo was to play a significant role in giving Kibaki much-craved legitimacy after the controversial 2007 elections.
While he got the Vice-President’s position for his troubles, the recrimination in the 2013 campaign was that Kibaki’s original political debt to Raila, over the dishonoured MoU, had been compounded with his disloyalty towards Kalonzo, whose support was necessary for him to remain president after 2007.
To the supporters of Raila and Kalonzo, Kibaki will be remembered as a person who did not keep political promises.