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Make presidency unattractive to looters and ethnic chieftains

Monday February 11 2019

 Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka

President Uhuru Kenyatta hugs ODM leader Raila Odinga as Deputy President William Ruto (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka cheer on May 31, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Let’s abolish the presidency. Seriously, if most of our conflicts revolve around competition for that high seat of power, removing the source of problems is the most logical thing to do.

That might sound foolish but here’s a question posed on this forum before: Quick, without asking Google, who is the President of Switzerland?

I can bet most of my readers in Kenya have no answer to that question. Actually, the majority of people across the world have no clue who rules Switzerland. That’s because the tiny European country which runs like clockwork (and has a reputation for making great watches), and generates humungous wealth, has no ‘ruler’.


But Switzerland does have a president: Ueli Maurer, elected at the beginning of this year.

However, the president is really more of a first among equals, being part of a seven- member Federal Council, which shares executive power. Each Councillor heads one of the seven federal executive departments, equivalent of Cabinet offices, while the Federal Presidency rotates between the seven, each serving for just one year before passing on the baton.

The beauty of the collegial presidency is that the office is not a matter of life and death. It is a not a place one will covet as a means to grabbing wealth and enjoying the exercise of power. It is not an office one will fight to the death to retain for fear that exit will mean loss of power, privilege and immunities.

In Kenya right now, we are talking about expanding the executive under the false notion that creating many seats of power will be the cure for the exclusion that is often at the heart of our political conflicts.

We can create any number of prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, deputy assistant presidents and so on but that will not solve our problems. We will be introducing offices to satisfy the greed of those who want to join the ‘eating’ binge rather than creating space for those who want to serve.

If we must expand the executive, then let us do it in the Swiss style by establishing a collegial presidency composed of those who approach leadership as a call to service rather than an opportunity to ‘eat’.

One way to get the right calibre of leaders might be simply by making elective offices voluntary assignments rather than salaried employment. From there will emerge leaders who really want to give freely of their time and skills rather than exploiting public office to amass billions in looted wealth.


Our version of the Swiss federal council can be composed of representatives elected by each one of the eight regions which formed the former provinces. That will mean within eight years, every region will have produced a president, forever banishing the divisive elections that have made the scramble for State House an ethnic conflict.

Rules can also be crafted so that regions sending representatives to the council ensure rotation, so that every county within the region gets a chance.

If we start at the top, the culture of servant- and collegial leadership can then cascade down to the national legislature and the county executives and legislatures.

First, we can trim over-representation at the top by abolishing the bloated National Assembly and passing over its functions to the Senate. We can also do away with those obscene salaries and multiple allowances, giving MPs just a token of appreciation rather than fund their lavish lifestyles.

The collegial leadership model can also be adopted at the county government level, which might help to cure the disease of ‘devolved corruption’. The seat of county governor also must be made unattractive to those who simply want to enrich themselves.

* * *

I am not, and have never been, a communist.

Nevertheless, I was shocked to learn that the Registrar of Political Parties, one Ms Ann Nderitu, had rejected an application by the Social Democratic Party to change its name to Communist Party of Kenya. She also rejected the hammer and sickle as its new party symbol.

The reasons given were as spurious as can be. Ms Nderitu, who I presume lives in the present century, basically argued that a communist party would be illegal because Kenya is a capitalist, democratic country. She even purported to reference wildly misinterpreted sections of the Constitution and the laws of Kenya to make her point.

Petty and uneducated bureaucracy is, surely, the curse of Kenya. If whoever appointed Ms Nderitu is not behind her illegal and embarrassing actions, he must move with haste to remove her from a job that is, clearly, beyond her.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho