BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO
Once again, there is a deep seated conspiracy to deny Kenyans a chance to have a new constitution as proposed by negotiators of the National Accord on Peace and Reconciliation meeting under the chair of former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
A new constitution whose delivery has been elusive for a generation is one of the few reforms proposed in the Agenda IV by the peace negotiating team that authored the National Accord as part of an effort to calm tempers and restore confidence in the government and elected leaders. Kenyans are yet to recover from the post election violence in which more than 1,000 people lost lives and 500,000 uprooted from their homes.
The existing cracks and cacophony within the Committee of Experts tasked to fine tune parallel drafts and the hard line positions taken by political parties reminiscent to the discordant voices heard during the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) deliberations at Bomas in 2004 are dress rehearsals for scuttling the process. The positions by yesteryear reformists turned conformists are deliberate attempts to derail the process for a third time.
For the experts to live a legacy, they have to listen to the cries of the patient masses and present at least two drafts at the referendum. One, a cut, copy and paste of Bomas with the contentious issues intact and the revised or fine tuned version. Another option is to ask parliament to ratify the Bomas draft minus the contentious issues often propagated at funerals, markets and in the media by political leaders.
More time to consult is just one in the many excuses by the turncoats determined to buy time so that the Accord lapses and the status quo resumes. A constitution with a new date means loss of power for the political elite , fresh elections and the end of the coalition government crafted out of the blood and sweat of Kenyans fighting for their constitutional rights.
Time to avoid the return to a status quo is now and there should be more than one choice from parallel drafts since one document is likely to be rejected again in the referendum. The gullible public and civil society organizations never saw the trap set on the way to a new constitution by President Mwai Kibaki who insisted on presenting one doctored draft. A similar trap is being set for the electorate and they will fall into it whether they want it or not unless they make their demands known now.
Failure to heed the advise of those who cried loud for justice in the 2005 November referendum and lost lives in the bloody campaigns in the 2007 general elections would be a rehearsal for one of the worst chaos in living memory. The referendum campaign and its outcome dangerously polarized society and set the country into the mood that it finds itself today.
Kenyans are too familiar with tricks, manipulations and intrigues of the political class when it comes to issues that would benefit the governed. The use of a protégé to challenge the constitutional review process in court after billions of shillings had been spent on the exercise is one case in point. The disgraced anti corruption director, retired Justice Aaron Ringera ruled that parliament has no authority to enact a constitution – hence the presence of lawmakers at Bomas in a process that sought to replace the constitution under which they were elected was a betrayal.
If the NCC adjourned sine die were to reconvene, it would do so without MPs. That explains why legislators would not like it to reconvene or constitute a constituent assembly to handle the review process.
From then on, the executive conspired with legislative colleagues to reopen the draft for circumstantial amendments which they had reason to believe would not meet the approval of the Kenyan public and non parliamentary NCC delegates. The doctored draft was rejected in a referendum.
Better the devil you know than the Angel you do not know, goes the saying of the campaign against reforms prophesized by former President Daniel arap Moi in his last days in office.
The devil Kenyans know is the current constitution and the Angel they don’t know is the proposed draft constitution. The voting against a new constitution did not come as a surprise. He dispersed a delegate’s conference on the constitution a few weeks before he left office in 2003.
(The writer is a former cabinet minister and national official of two major political parties)