Kenya Inc opens for business: the inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country's new leader was also an opportunity to display the direction the country has set for itself over the medium term. The emphasis was on business, regional economic integration and a revival of the pan-African dream. Wanjohi Kabukuru looks back on a historic milestone.

Author:Kabukuru, Wanjohi
Position:Kenya
 
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IN AN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, on 17th January 2013, roughly two and a half months before the elections, Kenya's Chief of Defence Forces, General Julius Karangi held an invitation-only meeting with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the umbrella lobby of the country's industrialists. The meeting was to brief manufacturers and the business community on the security measures planned to forestall a repeat of the 20072008 post-elections violence, which saw heavy losses to the regions's business community.

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"Failing to prepare is planning to fail. I therefore plead with everyone to plan for losers in the presidential election to concede defeat as quickly as possible to ensure there is no tension in the country," Gen. Karangi impressed on the business leaders. "We should recognise that Kenya attracts a lot of interest from regional and international fronts because it's a regional powerhouse where if things go wrong the whole region is destabilised, threatening local and international interests."

A week to the elections, all security chiefs met retiring President Mwai Kibaki to brief him on the security arrangements. A massive deployment of 99,000 security officers had been undertaken across the republic. Security hotspots had also been identified and mapped out with special police and paramilitary units identified to keep watch of the regions. An elaborate, grand scheme by the country's security services, religious leaders and the media was in place to secure a conflict-free election. The entire Kenyan media fraternity was embedded to promote restraint and tolerance to avoid fanning any sort of conflict. The press went further and managed to rally the citizenry to believe that there is life after elections.

In that same week as the top security chiefs were briefing President Kibaki, a special Kenya Air Force (KAF) Dash 8 jet left Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi. Its destination was Dar es Salaam, Bujumbura, Kigali and Kampala. Aboard the plane was Joseph Nyaga, Kenya's former cooperative minister. Nyaga's new role was as Kibaki's special envoy to the EAC heads of state assuring them that there would be no disruption whatsoever to the main regional logistics artery, the Northern Corridor. This was necessary as, in 2007-2008, the Northern Corridor was completely blocked, undermining the economies of the region. Police helicopters and over 300 paramilitary police officers kept watch on the Kenya-Uganda Railway and the Mombasa-Malaba road to forestall any likely disruption to cargo destined for Uganda in case of an election fallout. In other words, the Kenyan election was to all intents and purposes a business-oriented poll with...

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