Hide nothing from the masses of our people
Tell no lies
Expose lies whenever they are told
Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures
Claim no easy victories…
~ Amilcar Cabral.
Forgive us for what we’re about to do. At a time such as this, when the voices of charlatans and court jesters flood the streets of your mind – as they would the mind of anyone sitting in your seat – getting your ear may not be the easiest of things to do. It is for this reason that we come to you in the manner of a lone voice in the wilderness, a language you may understand.
One of the most poignant moments in your life was when you broke down and wept during a church service in 2013, not too long after your erstwhile friend Uhuru Kenyatta and yourself were declared president and deputy president elect. It was the first time you, and maybe any Kenyan politician for that matter, showed emotions of such magnitude in public. People made light of this and other moments when you’ve shown such emotion, including when you wept after the Supreme Court upheld your declaration as president in 2022. Forgive them.
For us, we see that 2013 moment and the subsequent 2022 one differently. There you were, in 2013, coming from being hounded at The Hague for crimes against humanity charges to becoming Kenya’s second most powerful politician. If we took it further, there you were, a son of a peasant who had come from nothing to being a heartbeat away from the presidency. It mustn’t have been easy being you in that 2013 moment, and the entirety of your life must’ve flashed before you as you readied yourself for an uncertain future of power and largesse.
In that moment, we imagine, you went through the motions of your life; the good, the bad and the ugly. Possibly, we imagine, you wanted to open a new chapter of your life, accepting your new reality as a powerful man without forgetting where you came from. Possibly, we imagine, you wished to seek forgiveness for whatever unbecoming acts – let’s put it that way – you may have committed on your long journey to that 2013 moment. There must have been these and all manner of other existential and spiritual scenarios playing out in your mind. In the end, we imagine, you dried up your tears a renewed man, aware of how lucky – you’d say blessed – you were. You had finally arrived in the big leagues, Mr President, and you couldn’t believe it.
That person, in that moment, must’ve been the best version of yourself. A self aware one.
If it were up to us, we’d keep you in an eternal state of feeling the emotions you felt when you broke down in church for the first time in 2013, because, it seemed, that was your truest self, not the tough-talking guy who peeks through the sunroof of his armoured SUV and leaves the country on tenterhooks. Yours is a difficult job, but if there’s something that will save you, from both yourself and from others (especially those around you), it has to be that 2013 moment when you came face to face with the reality of being who you are, having come from where you come from and gone through what you’d gone through and still managed to scale the heights you got to. We are not passing judgement here, but forgetting that 2013 moment and everything that came with it is what has caused you to stumble whenever you’ve stumbled.
During the presidential campaign, yourself and others teased your opponents as being sons of dynasties, out of touch with the common man and woman. You drew comparisons between yourself and the everyday Kenyan, because you too, a son of a father whose name no one knew before you became the William Ruto, had experienced their suffering. It was a language that would be highly likely spoken by the man who broke down in 2013, not believing his luck. Whenever you weren’t teasing the dynasties, you were calling for hustlers to unite, and with all your faults (some believed you had many), your message was landing. The one thing no one could’ve taken away from you was the impression that you cared for the masses.
And then you took power ten months ago and seemingly forgot that 2013 moment, your moment of truth. As president, the message was now painted in broad strokes, and a new mta-do attitude crept in within your troops. You all went into defence-mode, and anything and everything anyone said was viewed through the prism of an attack on your government. As part of going on the defence, you and those around you decided to go on the offence, taking on persons and institutions that dared question you. Raila Odinga sensed your unease, and in came the protests. In the midst of everything that was happening, you seemed to have lost yourself, and quickly became unrecognisable to the hustlers who once sang your praises.
Today, Raila Odinga, a dynasty by your definition, is working up the hustler nation.
But all of this is vanity, as you would know.
In Kenya’s recent history, one of the most stark memories is one of Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki lying in state at parliament buildings upon their demise. And if there’s anything that anyone with your kind of intuitiveness must have picked from those sombre scenes of the remains of those once-upon-a-time powerful men lying there as if they had never caused the ground upon which they walked to shake, was that in the end, it is moments like yours in 2013 that really matter, moments when we reconnect with our truest selves and discard whatever ideas are being planted inside our heads to make us feel invincible.
You Mr President said you cared for the people.
Go back to the people as yourself, the man who knelt and wept in church in 2013.