For a world used to politicians insulting each other, Obama-Biden were a class act: There is hope for us still

I often hear from my readers how dirty politics is. That politicians are lying, thieving and treacherous beings. I concur that honour is a hard thing to find among Kenyan politicians, but then again Kenyan politicians are in a class of their own.  They have been called “M-Pigs”, “A fellowship of thugs”, “The cream of all crap”. More tellingly, they do not just steal from the people, they have no honour among themselves, and they are always tearing at each other with insults.

From the highest level of political relationships between Presidents and their appointees, Coalitions partners and Party honchos, to the Governors and their Deputies, from the National to the Ward level, we are used to stories of treachery, arm-twisting, threats, grandstanding, betrayal, jealousy, undermining, undercutting and sleaze amongst politicians.  One can therefore understand the disillusionment of Kenyans with our politicians.

But our democracy is crafted in such a way that change will have to come through the political class. We are not a theocracy, nor a military dictatorship nor a monarchy. We are a democracy and these elected politicians are here to stay. And therefore, we need some hope in politicians, the political class and the democratic process. We need hope, something that tells us that we will one day get the right crop of politicians and that our democracy will not always be undermined and the people held hostage by the “fellowship of thugs”.

It is in search of this hope, that I am sharing my own view about the Obama-Biden relationship. There is honour here.

Pure class.

In the formal news conference where Obama was paying tribute to Biden, he said things that I would one day hope to hear a Kenyan politician say about his colleagues. Obama said:

“To know Joe Biden is to know that love without pretence, service without self-regard, and to live life fully. As one of his long-time colleagues in the Senate who happened to be a Republican once said, if you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. He is as good a man as God ever created.”

In his final farewell speech, he said this about Biden:

“To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son, you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.”

Can you ever imagine Kenyan politicians saying this about each other? Except maybe for the hypocritical stuff they go to say in their funerals, happy that the dead don’t tell tales, neither do they hear any?

With the exception of the Kenyatta 1-Moi, and Kibaki-Awori Presidency, the relationships of Presidents and their Deputies have ended in ignominy and claims of treachery and disloyalty. From what I have read, it is hard to say what Kenyatta 1 thought about a youthful Moi, his then VP. But he remained protective of him amid huge pressure to drop him. It is is generally agreed that Moi was fiercely loyal to Kenyatta 1 and remains so until today. Ask Uhuru how he became President. I doubt that young Kenyans can recall such a relationship among politicians. There seemed to be respect between Uncle Moody and Kibaki though. I don’t know that there was much else.

In an earlier article, I talked about the current political class in CORD and Jubilee and the fact that all of them have been together in KANU, in the blood-soaked coalition government and beyond.  Yet they have little respect for each other. They are frenemies. The words they use to describe each other are a testament that there is no honour among our politicians;  thief, mole, anarchist, traitor, hypocrite, tribalist (this is a favorite of them all),  grabber, Judas Iscariot, dishonest, dictator, Kimundu,  bully, Jamaa wa vitendawili, ile mtu wa risasi moja, chameleon, water melon, abunuwasi, mganga, high priest of corruption, etc etc.

Even the fact that Obama held a press conference to honour Joe Biden is itself a special thing. As one of his last acts as President, he went further to convey to him  the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the highest civilian honours, a gesture that brought Biden to tears. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/obama-awards-biden-presidential-medal-of-freedom/2017/01/12/93de2e1a-d90b-11e6-a0e6-d502d6751bc8_video.html.

The event touched the very core of humanity in everyone who watched it. I have to admit I have watched it again and again and again. I am a sucker for human loyalty and devotion. I do not think there is any higher value in human relationships than this. It trumps everything else, it goes beyond respect, love, beyond sharing and beyond trust. Loyalty and devotion mark the pinnacle of the possibilities of human relationships, beyond that can only be heaven.

And Obama-Biden relationship is pure humanity without pretense, friendship without bounds, loyalty without ego. Humanity at its best. And this from politicians.  There indeed can be honour among politicians and there is hope for us still. Biden faithfully shadowed Obama for eight years, and in return has great things to say about his boss. He was his real support without being intrusive. He just asked to be a footnote when the story of Obama’s great legacy is finally told. Ours is a situation where I sometimes wonder whether we have a Deputy President or a Co-President. But that is a story for another day.

For those of us still hoping and believing for a new non-ethnic political narrative, let us hope that the new narrative will not only inspire the country differently, but it will inspire a new class of politicians. Let us hope it will engender a political class guided by honour, loyalty, service, grace and selflessness. Something that our children can look up to, admire and emulate. A leadership that will not disillusion us and make us lose faith in ourselves, but one that will inspire us to the highest possibilities of human achievement and human relationships. For a world used to politicians behaving badly, the Obama-Biden relationship was a class act and a reminder, there is hope for us still.

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156 comments

  1. These politicians of ours are have refused to evolve. Political dinosaurs. They will soon die and be extinct. It is maturity by Obama to Biden though i wasnt a supporter of their administration, but i was fascinated by how they worked together.

  2. Professor you are too clinging to HOPE for a better Kenya with leaders of good morals . Do you think we can have leaders of Obama calibre in our country, and if they are will they have that opportunity to lead Kenya ?

  3. You will not get many comments on this one i bet…We are stuck in the mad and we only praise those who write and praise the mad-ness we are stuck in. This a good future pointer written from an optimistic point of view.

  4. Granted, the US has been independent for about 240 years. We are only 54. My only worry is that whereas America was learning from every experience she went through, for she had her setbacks and getbacks, ours is a society on a downward trajectory. Dishonesty is our de facto super value. And with such, we can only get worse. Unfortunately.

  5. Finding leaders like Obama in Kenya is not easy. Most of them are driven by selfish interest. In most cases they champion ethnic agenda at the expense of the nation. Since independence ethnicity and corruption has taken the centre stage. Ethnic kingpins are taken has heroes. Those who fight for social justice are considered Vallains.Kenyans need to set themselves free from the yoke of tribalism to elect true servant leaders who can take this country to the next level.

  6. What makes the so called big man in Kenya humble and content when they go abroad? What is it abroad that brings them down to the level of the common person they so love to trample on in Kenya? Why do they seek audience with any willing ear whilst here they’re too busy for us? Exactly. It’s the pedestal we put them in. We glorify them here, extol them to unimaginable heights and bring out of them demons that we choose to tolerate. Unless we see them as mere mortals with expiry dates like all of us you may as well forget humility and love from this lot. Hence the need to exercise our right to vote and vote wisely.

  7. Prof….today, I salute you for your candid analysis of the retired USA president Baraka Obama and his vice president retired, Joe Biden. A very special relationship at the professional level ,yet bearing the hallmarks of a sibling relationship. Kudos for the good work today.

  8. Prof as of hopes in Kenya our richly endowed nation ranging high in all fields more so both extremes negative and positive can continue endlessly not unless we root out the old perception of who are you ,from where,you know who ,what do you have etc else Mark timing will always be the tale of the day.

  9. Chambua kama karanga, sawa bt we are reaping what we saw jomo failed this country, mois loyalty was a survival strategy on a vicious tribal goons good for nothing people around jomo not coz of good service, kibaki had to be put on toes so really nothing to talk abt , bt your views are OK that’s the African mentality on democracy

  10. and again You have said absolutely nothing that is relevant to Kenya or our current situation ….relevance?.Proffessore you of all people should know how to make connections… nimesoma sija guswa

  11. This article is inspired. I strongly believe you meditate a lot while writing such an article. May God keep showering you with wisdom and insight. The future is bright, and as my honorable teacher, I will have to work to keep you close to inform some of my key decisions especially those touching on leadership. Don’t turn down the offer.

  12. We lost hope the day we born to be Africans where the success believed be come only by you ascending to power that’s why in Kenya voter registration is more basic than health care provision therefore we will live by chance just like baboons in the forest

  13. Kenya is still an evolving Democracy with so many socio-economic challenges. Politicians respond to such challenges by realigning themselves to the side that will give them “More” to solve their personal ambitions as well as those of their “people”….in such a context Treachery, Mistrust,suspicion and betrayal is part of the game.It is so common in Kenya to hear the ” There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics!”..A Rival today could be an ally tomorrow.

  14. no matter what you write,Kenya will never change..this is how we gonna be…your tribe itself is so tribal,start with your home first before writing these nonsense to us…uthamaki is what is killing this country with mafias and cartels in all spots of the government and civil service….african race is the dumbest race so far,sometimes i wish i was born in morocco,USA or Europe…we are so ignorant,rich in resources,all year round sunshine yet so poor and ignorant…

    • It’s not a matter of being different but viongozi kukosa adabu,where in this world does someone steal money meant for young people and confesses on live television but since he was stealing on behalf of political heavyweights she is let free and people from that ethnic group come quickly to her defence,this is what I call poverty of mind.

  15. I am a true believer that we shall have a non-ethnic political narrative in this country… Someday. Luther had a dream and it surely came to pass.

    But Prof, do you think there’s a politician (aspiring or current office holders) who have such an agenda for this beloved nation?

  16. very accurately put. However when we abandon healthy care for voter registration is name calling like irresponsible leader an offense we call leaders petty names because they act no better than wicked animals

  17. Good take on this ‘marriage of political heavy-weights’. Hope Kenya will grow to have such one day. The beloved country is in deep trouble. MPigs they are. They only agree when they are legally looting the coffers. What a shame. The best paid politicians on earth and yet the most rampant thieves of all.

  18. Another well penned piece Prof. It is my considered opinion that it may take up to three generations to get the leadership we deserve as a country. American democracy is 250 years old, ours is slightly less than a quarter century considering the return to multiparty politics.

  19. The content of this article is still millions miles a way to be experienced not only in Kenya but in Africa as a whole since we are driven by selfish desires, no knowledge and understanding how to govern. A nation. People who are supposed to blend us are viewed as enemies

  20. Prof what drives our politics is selfishness. They think about self and not nation. They don’t really care if someone slept hungry, died or lives under difficult circumstances as long as it will not stop them from kula nyama. Unfortunately that’s the crop of leaders we have.

  21. Professor, is it not ironic then that America, in its wisdom, decided to trash all that Obamaism was? They voted into office a guy who was polar opposite to Obama/Biden?

    Maybe, the Good Book is right afterall that, ‘it is all a chasing after the wind”. Really.

  22. The ideological orientation resemblance in the Obama-Biden presidency is a substance that lacks in the Kenyan Political mortgage market.Selfishness is the core of political partnership in Kenya.

  23. Until we will stop taking oath and some tribal elders stop cursing others for exercising their constitutional rights, then we are just pretending. Just writing to please or to earn some likes.

  24. Nothing is changing the way Kenya is governed so please remain silent chant some prayers that God might do something to better our lives through the leaders we elect.

  25. This is a good and a nuetral article,but we have to react,why the good elsewhere but not here? Just to elaborate mine point further;almost all people are politician’s followers and believe in them,the sole reason why wars are connected to politicians! Leaders stand a chance to build or destroy a nation.In everything,foundation matter alot: ‘mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo’ (a child grows up observing the teachings in his|her tender youth) This is where Kenya went to the dogs.You can’t harvest guavas from a mango tree,can you? What you plant is that which you will harvest,isn’t it? If you are a thief,a thug,you will soon follow your ancesters through arms. The first president Jomo Kenyatta planted tribalism,grabbing in this republic.We can all agree that tribalism hasn’t begun today.Kenyatta grabbed the lands which belonged to other tribes but occupied by the white settlers and gave same to his people. Tell me if land isn’t an issue in the republic? Some kenyans were dislocated as a result of this land issue! Very sad: some people in kenya asked the late president Kenyatta to take to them tractors for cultivation of their big fallow land,but Kenyatta took Kikuyus there and occupied that land-Kenya begun with and still experiencing ignorant leadership.

    • You are stuck in the past when you are not stuck on you know who. We need a new non-ethnic political narrative. We cannot make ourselves captives of history.

      Like I have always said I am not neutral The fact that the article does not refer to Kenyan politics and the guy you are obsessed with does not make it neutral. It is you who thinks it is neutral because it does not mention you know who.

    • Neutrality means you have not appeared ill towards a principal.Rem Raila and Uhuru aren’t the defination of leaders.Your reasoning doesn’t agree with mine point,I too didn’t speak about Uhuru,but Jomo,his father.If, at all,I was obssessed,I Won’t veer off. And like I said,saying one is obssessed is simply a feeling because it is not a point. Knowing how ill you are,sometimes I number for you my points,so that I expect points from you in defence.From the time when Kenyatta was handed over the leadership,Kenya was a virgin,who corrupted her? When we are addressing a very crucial item like this,why bring petty issues of obssession? If I’m obssessed with Raila,as you put it and want it to be,is that what made Jomo Kenyatta ferry Kikuyus to other people’s lands? How is my obssession with Raila connected to that? When you are wrong, ill and defenceless,you diviate from the real issue!

    • Daniel Aloo You have no issues boss, whether you put them in point form or in whatever other form. Your whole reasoning is based on three things: an obsession with Raila, a hatred forthe Kikuyu and fixation on history as presented to you by Raila and Kikuyu haters. My reasoning is based on an apologetic disdain for the current political class in CORD and Jubilee and the tribal warlords that includes Raila, a believe in the people of Kenya regardless of their ethnicity as the drivers of change and a focus on the Kenya that could be and not one that has been. I have argued for a new non-ethnic political narrative to inspire the country differently. You argue for Raila as the solution to problems he is part of creating. We are on polar opposites something you fail to appreciate because for you anyone who does not agree with you is a Raila hater and a tribalist.

    • You say that you are apologetic for the current political disdain;you are feeling sorry! Who validates my claims as you do? That is why I feel like engaging you over and over again! When I haven’t mentioned Raila,you do-who is much more obssessed with Him? Let alone that:being apologetic or sorry is a sign of the presence of bad,rot-where did they originate? When you are defeated to dig deep into the problem and possibly give a way forward,did you want us to feel sorry as you do? Which is better:feeling sorry or giving a way forward? You also say that I’m stuck in history!Allow me correct you,history is a very vital subject that is even taught in school as we speak! Go and convince the appropriate authority of it’s uselessnes and have it scrapped from the curriculum-all pple will declare it 100% ignorant. The other issue of obssession is a level ground for kids;any one deviod of point can afford the allegation-only points can make a difference.That is why I have avoided a similar simple allegation against you.

  26. ‘I am a sucker for human loyalty and devotion. I do not think there is any higher value in human relationships than this. It trumps everything else, it goes beyond respect, love, beyond sharing and beyond trust. Loyalty and devotion mark the pinnacle of the possibilities of human relationships, beyond that can only be heaven….’ I have come here and read this again and again it has captured my heart and soul…on matters our politicians I have learnt to have no expectations,none at all and while at it,guard my heart!

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