Sunday, November 30, 2008



By Munaweza Muleji

It is now commonly understood that Justice Waki’s report is a damning reflection on post-independence leadership.

The report illustrates the effects of dodgy political leadership over the past 45 years. It also demonstrates clearly how the rot has spread deep into other aspects of leadership.

What got us into this fine mess? At the outset in 1963, Kenya inherited a colonial system of governance that favoured the colonial masters over indigenous people. It was hoped post-independence government would deconstruct colonial governance and put in place a new system and structure to focus on delivering service to the people.


Instead, the newly independent state positioned itself as the sole supplier of largesse. It therefore attracted rent seekers who sought to work closely with government and even to join its ranks. Those who indulged at the expense of the nation, often had, or quickly obtained, political ‘cover’. Soon a brisk business of rewarding political support using State resources flourished. Impunity developed firm roots.

Elections, though intended to act as a means of keeping the Government in check, became an opportunity to allow boarding the gravy train. Consequently, with every election, the stakes kept rising. The onset of the multi-party system held out the prospect that the number of competitors for the privilege of political office had exponentially grown. In addition, an elaborate system of political patronage was under threat. The establishment responded by unleashing fear and bloodshed to maintain status quo.

In national discourse, we have tended to pay scant attention to the worldview that underpins what ails Kenya. The turn of phrase employed by political leadership provides a unique window to understanding the ruling paradigm. It is a paradigm that virtually guarantees Kenya’s candidature for a ‘failed state’ status.

The hunter paradigm casts elections as a competition between potentially hostile hordes for the prize of ‘game meat’. The collective wisdom is that once elections are won, it is time to share out the meat. This paradigm pervades leadership behaviour.

It is a paradigm that does not invest in the nation, prioritises self and crony interests, tramples on the interests of the people, loots the nation, colludes with predatory foreigners, disregards public opinion, undermines good governance structures, whips up sentiment under the faÁade of ‘ethnic’ interest, and employs oppressive tactics to prop up its position.

The hunter paradigm perceives political office and other leadership positions as prey, because in this scheme of things, such positions are inextricably linked to resources, privilege and power to plunder. The hunter seeks to be master, dominating and seeking to shape events to fulfil narrow selfish objectives.

The hunter is often adept at camouflage and deception, concealing narrow selfish agenda in nice-sounding, vote-inducing platitudes. Should the need arise, the hunter dulls the senses of the prey, using even bribery.

The hunter paradigm has contributed immensely to the problems that characterise Africa.

We need to ask whether it is this paradigm that drives many of our leaders. We also need to ask ourselves where we are likely to end up as a nation, if we do not change course. We have to do away with the ‘politics of the belly’ and embrace the ‘politics of service’.

The former makes losers of all of us; the latter fulfils the needs of both the people and the leaders. Perhaps what we need, and this is what Waki shied from spelling out in black and white, is a change of leadership paradigm. In many instances this will inevitably require a dramatic, fundamental change of leaders.


We need leaders who will practice the stewardship, or to extend the analogy, the shepherd paradigm.

Stewardship is about being outstandingly accountable and transparent. These are leaders whose interests are aligned with national ones. These are leaders who do what it takes to build a strong united nation, which they consider to be one team. These are leaders who recognise that they are not indispensable and develop worthy successors. They empower the people. They nurture and invest. They generate and create. They are productive. Their aim is to leave a lasting positive impact in the history of the growth of their nations. They are value-driven. Visionaries who deliver on the action steps required attaining worthy goals. Stewards are unifiers, keenly aware that each and every person is of unique value and worth. They put into practice their belief that all ethnic groups are valuable to the nation. This paradigm demands that leaders position the nation to successfully overcome the challenges of the future.

That is the type of leaders we are looking for. It is the type of leaders the doctor would order for Kenya.

What Waki did not tell us, is that it is an achievable desire. Yes, we will require dramatic, fundamental leadership changes and paradigm shifts, but it is an achievable goal. See what the hunter paradigm has got us into? We need to dump the hunters with their faulty paradigm and hire the shepherds. We can do it, we need to and we should. Pronto.