A Very Rare Breed of Leader And Defender Of The Weak

Kenya has just completed the constitutional process of nominating, vetting and appointing a new Cabinet to implement the manifesto of recently elected President, William Ruto. There was a certain predictability about the exercise from start to finish. Very few ever doubted that any of the twenty-three names proposed by Mr Ruto would not reach the swearing in stage, regardless of their track record or the many criminal and civil cases that several of them faced in court.

The whole episode provided more light entertainment than enlightenment for those who spent precious or idle time watching the live coverage on the national television stations. It may have been an interesting experience to witness the nominees being interrogated about their private and public lives but the drama and theatrics was never going anywhere and so it proved. Just about everyone knew that in the final scene of the drama the whole group would be paraded on stage, pick up their holy books and swear allegiance to the constitution and the public.

What seems to have interested many and surprised the masses was the amount of wealth that the nominees confessed to possess. The more mathematically inclined revealed that the net worth of the cabinet nominees was Kes 15.26 billion ($127 million), ranging from a high of Kes 4 billion of Musalia Mudavadi to a mere Kes 80 million of Lands Secretary Zechariah Mwangi. Truth be told the figures disclosed in the interviews were probably a very conservative disclosure of their true wealth.

The newly appointed cabinet of billionaires must now prove to the public that their rich credentials will be an asset and not an impediment to implementing the Kenya Kwanza ‘bottoms up’ economic program. They of course will also represent the country round the globe but will most certainly face challenges abroad to explain how Cabinet Ministers can hold office while facing murder, rape and fraud charges at home.

Ultimately, the whole vetting exercise was a charade and did little to enhance or consolidate integrity in leadership. Regardless of the final report of the Parliamentary committee as to their suitability, Mr Ruto and his majority in Parliament were always going to endorse his choices. Worse still it proved that Chapter Six of the Constitution is dead and buried and only a miracle will revive it.

Battered and bruised by a political class who consider depravity almost a badge of honour, the public are forced to accept charlatans and fraudsters as their public representatives. Is it any wonder then that the voter turnout in the August ballot was 64%, down from 85% in 2013?  Yet, a vast percentage of the public still stand for hours for a glimpse of known criminals and sing themselves hoarse praising them when they come to their town.

It would appear that we have mostly given up on integrity in leadership and feel that decency, hard work, humility and service are unattainable in this country. Mediocrity is the new standard for leadership and there is increasing unease with genuine leaders who come with values of humility, integrity and a simple lifestyle. These thoughts and others come to mind when asked to reflect on the values, life and lifestyle of retired Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

The high echelons of power were particularly uncomfortable with his style and approach to leadership. He remained true to his self while leading the judiciary and never adopted the grandeur that goes with high office: nor did he spend a single night in the palatial house constructed for the Chief Justice. He oversaw the transformation of the Judiciary by allowing competent, professional people to lay the strategies and plans to pave the groundwork for that transformation.

Willy didn’t fill his office with his tribe’s folk but recruited key, competent people that represented the face of Kenya in terms of gender, ethnicity and religion. Breaking the traditional mold and culture of high office left many uncomfortable, fearful and suspicious. There is something both beautiful and unsettling about authenticity as it shines a light on hypocrisy and exposes the games, tricks and lies without uttering a word.

The genuine and humble leader is mostly respected and loved more by the lowly, downtrodden and impoverished. They can identify with him, yet they too are frequently uncomfortable with simplicity as they have become so accustomed to a leadership that lords it over them that they cannot relate adequately to something radically different and extremely rare.

Put another way, the company of genuinely human people reminds all of us how we are betraying our humanity and how we are failing in the great call to be human, free, unencumbered and happy. People of faith would say that is what God/Allah is calling all of us to. But the same religious folk who throng our houses of worship each weekend seems mostly to miss that point.

There is often a serious disconnect between the packed houses of worship and the misery of the millions on the margins. The prophetic voice is missing in action and the prosperity gospel has replaced the radical call to overturn the corrupt and oppressive systems and transform them into systems that serve the needs of all citizens. Christians forget that Jesus was persecuted more for his world view than for his God view, even if both are closely connected.

Willy Mutunga is a man of faith, of many faiths perhaps, because he is comfortable with all of them. Yet he would appear to have difficulties with each of the great religions also. That might confuse and confound many believers who espouse unquestioned adherence to dogma and rituals but it further demonstrates his continuing search for truth, freedom, and authenticity. He is a seasoned campaigner for justice for the poor; a man who remains young at heart in his senior years. Above all else he is a constant reminder of what leadership and service should be because he embodies those great values.


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