In Summary
  • A series of recent media headlines and social media posts have exposed the vulnerability of the presidency to the mucky Kenyatta succession politics.
  • The ‘digital revolution’ has opened new frontiers of development. But it has also radically tilted the axis of power towards non-state sectors.

Certainly, Michael Foley’s book, The British Presidency (2000), came as a shock to those who have always associated Britain with the Westminster parliamentary system.

After examining Tony Blair’s leadership style, concepts and perspectives — more commonly associated with the American presidency — Foley unveiled “an emergent British Presidency” in the twilight of the 20th century.

Foley’s book is a fitting tribute to the global appeal of the American presidential brand, and a must-read for Kenyan wonks hyping the parliamentary system as a cure for the ills of the presidential system.

Arguably, Kenya’s 2010 Constitution is Africa’s boldest experiment with the “Washington Model”.

But as the adage goes, “when America sneezes, the world catches cold”. America has caught a debilitating cold.

RESPECT

The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 threw America’s presidential brand into disarray! This has stoked a vexed debate on the “respect for the presidency”.

For some — like former CIA Director Michael Hayden — President Trump deserves the same respect that has been given to his predecessors.

But naysayers question the logic of respecting America’s 45th President — plausibly the most histrionic and melodramatic of them all — simply because he is the president.

But America’s presidency started losing its shine long before Trump came along.

Watergate, where President Richard Nixon was personally involved in the most egregious political corruption in White House history, was a shattering blow to public trust.

SUCCESSION POLITICS

Scholars have, however, weighed in, reminding us that Watergate was a temporary stain and querying the wisdom of fusing the fate of the office together with the disgrace of one flawed person.

The presidency has intrinsic worth, and its occupant deserves unequivocal respect.

Faced with the most audacious and barefaced assault ever, Kenya’s presidency is sliding towards a post-Watergate moment.

The America’s “president-deserves-respect” debate is having echoes in the Kenyan public sphere.

A series of recent media headlines and social media posts have exposed the vulnerability of the presidency to the mucky Kenyatta succession politics.

One weekly carried a screaming headline - ‘Toothless President’ - in a full-page article that read like an unflattering epitaph of the Uhuru Presidency - never mind it has more than 1,175 days to go!

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Even nastier and acerbic was a post where cyber revellers went to town with an “advert” on a “Missing President”.

One of my nephews told me it was a ‘comic relief’. But in the corridors of power it was a handshake gone beyond the elbow, and gone awry.

The presidency is, peculiarly, a victim of two forces of progress. The first is the impact of technological innovations.

Kenya is riding the crest of a seismic ‘digital revolution’. Last year, its active mobile subscribers hit the 46.6 million mark.

This year, it joined Morocco, Namibia and Tunisia in a few African countries where mobile phone penetration has surpassed the 100 per cent milestone.

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