From: Juma Mzuri
Recently, the President of the Republic Of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been seen adorned in military attire at least twice this year. This has created a lot of frenzy from several quarters with some supporting this move with others opposing it. The first time he was seen wearing the military attire was in early September this year when he proceeded for a military function at Archer’s Post in Samburu. The second time was in mid-October 2014 when he officiated the Kenya Defense Forces Day at the Nakuru Military Academy in Lanet, Nakuru. Unlike the former Presidents’ Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi who adorned ceremonial military attires, Uhuru Kenyatta wore jungle-green military attire during the military function in Samburu and also appeared in navy fatigues during the KDF Day in Nakuru.
Those who support the president’s ‘new’ look argue that (among other reasons) there is nothing wrong with the president wearing the military attires. They label it as ‘military swag’ and applaud how ‘cool’ and ‘fresh’ he looks in the attire. However, those who oppose the move argue that (among other reasons) the president is trying to roll back the country into military dictatorship; and they further argue that it represents a failed or (soon to be) militarized nation, a dictator, or even an attempt by the president to camouflage the numerous failures and challenges that his government is facing when implementing government and public policy. However, both camps (those opposing and supporting the president in military attire) agree that it is a propagandist move or a move intended to appraise Uhuru’s status through public relations resulting from the buzz the whole scenario generates.
For others, they just saw the president ‘dressed in military uniform’. It was no big fete…
Nevertheless, should the decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta to adorn authentic military fatigues be a reason to worry or to make us to have sleepless nights? Is it true that he is trying to turn Kenya into a militarized nation with the recent two public stunts that he pulled by adorning military attire?
First, let us revisit the Supreme Law and what it says about the relationship between the president’s office and that of the military. According to article 131(1) (c) of the Kenyan Constitution, the president is the Commander-In-Chief of the Kenya Defense Forces. His roles as the Commander In Chief are outlined in Section 9 of the Kenya Defense Forces Act, and which are to appoint the Chief of the Defense Forces, Vice Chief of the Defense Forces and the three Service Commanders; and to be responsible for the organization and command of the Defense Forces.
Therefore, the president is not part of the military personnel. He or she is the civilian head responsible for the Defense Forces in terms of organization (structuring and management) and command (giving official authoritative orders). In terms of organization, he acts as the chair of the National Security Council that exercises supervisory control over the national security organs (Article 240). Nevertheless, the law is obscure on whether the president should dress in military attire as part of his duty as Commander-in-Chief.
In my view, the decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta to adorn military fatigues is just a PR move. It is no secret that the Jubilee government is a poorly performing government and it has tried all means, some dubious and foolhardy, in order to regain, retain and maintain public confidence and to also appear ahead as popular in opinion polls. The jubilee government is led by words without action. Thus, the means of persuasion like propaganda, public relations, social media, mainstream media and photo shopping come in handy to propel the exact image they want to feed to the citizens. The buzz created on social media and mainstream media after when the president adorns the jungle-green military attire is sure proof of the how desperate this government is at attention-seeking. It should not alarm us all.
Before, we have seen laws in parliament by the Executive that tried to politicize the military by having internal deployment of KDF done by the Executive without parliamentary approval. Fortunately, parliament rejected this proposal. Therefore, in view of such moves, let’s stay alert to prevent the president from negating the rule of law and the constitution in attempts to plunge this country into retrogression (dictatorship, militarization, etc). Otherwise, his decision to adorn military attire is just pure PR.
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