In 2009, Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart published a beautiful book that every African should read. Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding A Fractured World, is a sober look at the African state.
“African Condition” is the right idiom, because as Ali Mazrui discusses Africa in “Six Paradoxes” in his 1980 evergreen book “The African Condition”, the reality of the continent is that of a sick nation. The condition needs to be repaired, just as a sick person needs to be repaired. Therefore, Ghani and Lockhart analyze failed conditions and provide a framework for their resolution. Does Kenya need to be repaired? Does it have a condition?
Ghani and Lockhart appreciate the diseases that afflict states and cause them to be repaired. There are essentially three states – state dysfunction, state fragility, and state failure. The dysfunctional state has been challenged by “external forces” so that it cannot exercise legitimate sovereign power on its own. Is the Kenyan state working? Is it under the grip of external forces?
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Sovereignty is often symbolized by the holder of the highest public office and the exercise of state functions.
So does President Uhuru Kenyatta exercise the state functions in the case of Kenya without fear of being paralyzed by external forces?
In his nine years in office, President Uhuru seemed an eternal hostage. In his first term of office he seems to have been the hostage of his deputy by his own admission. He recently spoke of an MP who had put him in political chains.
He has complained that his deputy wanted to wrest the political baton away from him so that they – together – could run his round before the deputy could do his own round. Indeed, from day one there was dysfunctional confusion in clothing, address, and role. They appeared in the same material, in the same color and in the same category. Ruto was the first to stand on the podium. Uhuru followed him and repeated the things Ruto had just said. The situation smelled like dysfunction.
Since the handshake, the deputy has moved to the edge, certainly further than he should be. His duties were legally delegated to cabinet secretaries. Out of court, the president has accepted foreigners into the executive branch.
This week, Kenyans heard of a closed-door meeting where the president “discussed national security, health and economic issues” with opposition leaders. These are cabinet functions. Nor did we hear that the Cabinet met about it. Have government functions been ceded to outsiders? If so, the executive is dysfunctional. President Uhuru’s collaboration with opposition leaders is often hailed as necessary for peace, national unity and stability. That speaks of a fragile state. Social science recognizes that the state is fragile when its stability, authority and legitimacy are exposed to outsiders. Without this mercy, the state shows little government power. Ghani and Lockhart have observed that there is a vicious cycle of cause and effect, shaped by a matrix of political and economic corruption, rioting, crime and power collapse in the hands of non-state actors.
In the worst case, the non-state actors are militias like the ones Africa has seen in countries like Sierra Leone, Guinea, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo Brazzaville, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic, to name but a few to name.
But non-state actors who take over executive power do not always wear the face of militias. As in Kenya, they wear gentlemanly civil faces. But the ruler knows that he cannot rule without them, because the militias are always ready to strike and only wait for the signal from Baba. He must therefore rule with them.
State failure is the final stage in this matrix. The state is unable to provide basic goods and services to citizens. Personal security has collapsed. Citizens are mysteriously killed at the hands of the police and other law enforcement officers.
Life is no longer sacred. Killing is normal, even at home. I suspect Kenya could be directed there. Kenya must be constitutionally governed again.
The author is a public communications consultant with a PhD in politics and international relations