Insulter-in-Chief: Why Uhuru is Jomo’s son

We will not join the ranks of you ambao mnaenda kulamba matako ya wengine kule ndio mpatiwe pesa, na kazi yako ni kuenda kutukana nchi yako, kutukana serikali yako - Uhuru Kenyatta

It is no secret that the president loves his drink and his favourite, according to his former barman, is the Glenlivet whisky. He also loves his cigarette.

But is it fair for Kenyans to question the sobriety of their head of state because of a mere public tantrum? Why should alcohol or “whatever you are smoking” take the blame for the searing insult-laden presidential outbursts?

Or put another way, does flying into rage need an excuse? Or, as someone wondered, is he drunk with power? Let us turn to history to try and answer these questions.

An analysis of all President Kenyatta’s previous tantrums show that at times, he gets angry because of shattered expectations; sometimes it is just a pricked ego. There’s also an element of the genes – his father Jomo had foul moments too.

The first time Kenyans were exposed to Uhuru’s rage was in 2011, just after the then Speaker Kenneth Marende had rejected a list of names of judicial officers, including the Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions that President Mwai Kibaki had unilaterally submitted to the National Assembly for approval.

Marende ruled that Prime Minister Raila Odinga had to be consulted before names are submitted to Parliament.

That evening, Uhuru called a press conference at Parliament’s media centre and he was seen banging the table as he questioned if things couldn’t move in the House unless Raila said so. That weekend, he held a rally. Switching to mother tongue, he questioned if the people reminding him about his case at the International Crimes Court (ICC) “think Kibaki is uncircumcised.”

“Is (The) Hague their mother’s (home)? We will go there and we will defend ourselves,” he shouted, his palm slashing the air.

In October 2014, minutes after landing from The Hague in the Netherlands, he insulted the civil society: “We will not join the ranks of you ambao mnaenda kulamba matako ya wengine kule ndio mpatiwe pesa, na kazi yako ni kuenda kutukana nchi yako, kutukana serikali yako (ass-licking fellows who insult their country and their government in exchange for money).

Also, during his presidency, he once invited MPs from Central Kenya to State House, Nairobi, and as he spoke about fighting the menace of alcoholism in that region, he appeared visibly agitated, before the rage took over and his hand began pounding the lectern.

“Anybody who will not show what he has done dismissal hapo. Hakuna kuongea. Unaenda nyumbani. Tunaelewana?!” he thundered.

And in late November 2016, the president and his deputy went to Nyeri and called the opposition chief Raila Odinga “mganga” (witchdoctor); then the president switched to his mother tongue and called Raila muguruki (mad man).

The next month, after a chaotic sitting of the House, in which Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo called the head of state “a fake president,” mwizi (thief) and fisi (hyena), Uhuru responded in kind, saying Parliament “represents the country’s democracy and the ability of some idiots to continue insulting me.”

Recently, he travelled to Turkana, and after county governor Josephat Nanok raised the grievances of the people, especially with regard to the sharing of oil revenues, against a backdrop of opposition claims that the bulk of oil revenues will be retained at the national level, the head of state retorted that whoever was claiming that he (Uhuru) was planning to hoard oil revenues in Nairobi was “shetani ...mshenzi” (devil ... idiot).

He didn’t stop there.

He added, “Mjinga!” (fool). Then he was in Mombasa telling the governor, Hassan Ali Joho that, “Asicheze na sisi bwana, tutamnyorosha (he should not joke with us, we will teach him a lesson!). This, after reminding the governor that he (Uhuru) is not his wife.

Is the president so drunk with power that he goes around threatening opposition governors?

Alphonce Shiundu is a Nairobi-based journalist and an independent content developer.