The average man on the streets of Kampala knows everything he wants to know about Kenya’s recently deceased retired President Mwai Kibaki; that he was sworn in haste for his second and final term.
A parable about haste emerged in Kampala at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony held at State House Nairobi before the Election Commissioner even learned of the results he would announce.
“Be as quick as someone who takes Kibaki’s oath!” is still a popular phrase to urge someone to hurry, in Kampala the name is rendered as ” due to native language influence Pronounced Chibachi.”
The speed with which Kibaki was sworn in a decade and a half ago was indeed astounding for Ugandans, as in Uganda the inauguration of the President-elect takes place three months after the election. In fact, after last year’s elections, it took four months for the President-elect to take the oath. And if there’s one Kenyan election that Ugandans remember, it’s the one that ended in the notorious post-election violence that disrupted Uganda’s trade access to the sea. The economies of the two countries are so intertwined, but their politics are extremely different.
Out of this electoral violence, Kenya resulted in a joint leadership shared by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, for amused Ugandans who could not have dreamed of an equal co-presidency between Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye.
The violence erupted primarily because Kibaki had “hasty” taken his oath of office in the State House when the public was waiting for the scrutiny and Confirmation awaited the final ballot rather than a dignified swearing-in ceremony with the expected pomp in the public normally attended by regional heads of state and many dignitaries who join the multitude of citizens.
Uganders were amazed that the Two sworn rivals effectively carried out their joint mandate after a signed agreement. Apparently, Kenyans respect agreements and signatures.
And then there was the trifle of thousands of acres of public land that Kibaki’s predecessor had usurped in the Mau Forest and covered with a tea plantation. The two principals, in an orderly manner and according to the law, confiscated the land for the public (and humanity) and had trees replanted to restore the forest. Ugandans, angered by “powerful” people usurping public forest land, wondered.
At the end of the power-sharing period, Kenyan leaders switched to other formations, with Kibaki retiring because they Presidential candidates have term limits, and Odinga is up against Uhuru Kenyatta again this time. But because for Kenyans the law is the law, the issue of violence did not end after the elections, as criminal cases only end in a courtroom, not outside. The new President (Kenyatta) had to go to The Hague and defend himself before first handing power to his deputy William Ruto.
Last week Ugandans shared photos of the dead Kibaki and his two deceased predecessors and marveled about how things are done in Kenya. The Kampalans noted the stark contrast in time between the speed with which Kibaki was sworn in and the slow motion of his final farewell. But even that was an example of the national character in categorizing and handling priorities.
In Uganda it takes us three months before we swear in a president, while we bury our dead immediately in the Muslim way. Kenyans can take seconds after an election to swear in the winner and then a week to bury a dead person.
The other time, when Odinga decided that he was the rightful president of Kenya, he staged his Swearing-in ceremony outdoors and then went home. Besigye in Uganda held his secret oath six years ago and only released pictures for which he was accused of treason. He is still asking the court not to “waste time” and close the case as he has admitted the details of the charges and prosecutors have nothing to investigate.
In Kenya, Kenyatta is busy prosecuting Odinga against to support his own deputy, William Ruto. This is Kenya, where there are no political parties but quinquennial formations.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email: [emailprotected]