Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party enjoys majority support in Kenya and has engaged in an ambitious development agenda which has increased their support since initially coming into power in 2013. The Jubilee Party however, not unlike the Democrats under Obama in the USA, seems to suffer from an inability to enjoy full credit for their achievements on behalf of the people they serve.
I am of the opinion that this seems to be a malady borne of an inability to properly communicate their achievements stemming from a neglect of the importance of an effective and aggressive public relations campaign. Like Democrats in the USA, I believe that President Uhuru and the JP hold the view that the public sees and understands their development agenda and consequently will reward them for it. This is a huge failing because in fact as we saw in the USA, Obama’s achievements were not fully rewarded, and he lost both houses of congress even while he won re-election despite passing Obamacare which expanded access to health insurance for Americans.
Similarly Uhuru Kenyatta will continue to enjoy his majority support from his strongholds in Central Kenya and the Rift Valley. However the opposition has still managed to severely wound the reputation and public perception of Jubilee with their extremely successful and sustained anti JP PR campaign via a very effective communications strategy.
This author attended a talk on the Kenyan election at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC on Monday October 2nd 2017 whereby some of the panelists were parroting almost to the last word, the NASA talking points. This left me wondering whether NASA’s PR campaign has actually been so successful as to influence think tanks in the US or whether in fact it is the other way round with think tanks in the US influencing, indeed driving NASA coalition talking points. It is difficult to tell and will have to be the subject of a different article, but it was really quite striking.
So cutting to the chase, where specifically has the JP failed? The JP seems not to have a consistent communications strategy to match NASA’s extremely consistent messaging. For example, the NASA coalition started attacking the IEBC immediately after the August 8th election, decrying the fact that provisional results were being broadcast, demanding that the election result be announced as soon as possible while simultaneously demanding that no results should be announced without every single form 34A being made instantaneously public.
These attacks, demands and counterattacks on the IEBC served to confuse and pressure the IEBC and raise public doubts about the IEBC who were trying their utmost best, all in preparation for the election petition that they (NASA) knew was coming.
Even after winning the election petition, NASA has effectively continued their political double speak, foisting their demands on the JP as well as the IEBC with their irreducible minimums, a highly unreasonable hardline stance all while attacking the very legitimate election law amendments being pursued by the JP in parliament where indeed the making of laws belongs. JP has been placed on the defensive on this issue despite the fact their election law amendments are indeed exactly the reforms being demanded by absolutely every quarter including NASA, the media, the EU Observer Mission and foreign envoys. In some head turning double speak, these last two bodies have both come out with statements expressing consternation about the amendments despite demanding clarifications and reforms in how the IEBC conducts elections.
This raises questions about the good faith and motivation of these foreign bodies, but again that has to be the subject of another article. But back to the matter at hand, the JP has stepped up their PR campaign with a better lineup of representatives on TV shows and attacks on NASA, but they have been slow to take up the task. For far too long it has appeared that JP trusted that NASA was acting in good faith going back to their efforts that led to the ouster of the previous Isaac Hassan commission as well as to court petitions against the current IEBC before the Aug 8th election and even into their current attacks against the IEBC. This has been JP’s biggest failing because it does not in fact appear at all that NASA has been acting in good faith in the least. NASA for example has continued claiming that there were findings of illegalities despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Kenya (SCoK) full judgement specifically noted that it did not find anything that pointed to actual criminal intent. NASA has continued referring to “rigging” by the IEBC in favor of JP despite the fact that the SCoK declared that as expected, no evidence existed to show any such collusion between the IEBC and JP. I have heard various pro-NASA analysts and politicians making these claims with no challenges by the JP politicians and analysts sitting right next to them. NASA operatives speak out both sides of their mouth and lie on both sides of any number of positions with impunity and continue unchallenged by JP analysts who continue to try and have rational conversations. NASA has been clearly using the tactics of Republicans in the United States of not answering any questions and sticking to talking points no matter what the subject at hand while JP have been playing what often appears an amateurs game, despite being on the right side of most arguments and in particular as it pertains to the last election and the current stalemate.
JP has to be more effective about having a consistent message and attacks on NASA. They cannot let statements such as “rigging” go unchallenged. On the question of the election law amendments in parliament, they must continue with legislation and they must attack NASA’s irreducible minimums. They must also step up attacks on NASA’s bullying of the regular Kenyans that make up the IEBC, painting it as a fight of the bully Goliath against the meek David that is IEBC commissioners and the secretariat. JP has now adopted the very smart stance that they are not the IEBC and that the current fight of NASA against the IEBC is one that they are not a part of. This leaves NASA without an opponent to argue with on the question of the IEBC.
A political strategy appears to be taking shape with Senate majority leader Murkomen having taken up attacks against NASA on the question of regular Kenyans making submissions of their views on the amendments before parliament. The MP for Rarieda, Otiende Amollo made the disparaging remark that no “Kenyans of note” had made submissions while appearing on a panel with the Senate majority leader. Senator Murkomen jumped in and demanded an apology on behalf of regular Kenyans. That line of attack continued into October 4th 2017 with various JP legislators repeating their support of all Kenyans adding that all Kenyans were “notable”. This is a promising step on the part of the JP and I hope to see it continue.