The Constitution must stand the test of time

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The harmonised draft Constitution was unveiled on Tuesday in great pomp at the KICC.  Almost immediately, there were varied reactions to it, especially surrounding the contentious issues.  Sadly, these issues have enormous potential to divide this country along tribal and political lines yet again. 

We have 30 days in which we should debate this draft and give our feedback to the Committee of Experts.  As a sovereign yet diverse people, it is imperative we understand that we will never be 100 percent in the same boat.  What matters is not that we agree, but that we give our opinions on those issues which we are so passionate about. 

Having said that, I think we should agree ideally that the final draft will be one of great compromise among a people who are selflessly driven by the welfare of our country.  This way of thinking puts the responsibility for providing feedback squarely on us and not to our elected representatives. 

My take on this draft is that for the first time, we have a Constitution in which the majority of changes are favourable and very progressive.  It is our first real chance at amending our Constitution to reflect the needs of Kenya in this and the next century.  What shall be said of us who are living today and who have the power to influence change, if we do nothing? 

As a businessman therefore, my role is to provide guidance as to what an ideal Constitution should espouse and not to impress my views on my readers.

First, our Constitution should equally preserve the rights of all Kenyans, both majority and minority groups.  It should protect our privileges regardless of one\’s social status or affiliations.  This has been a challenge with our society and it is high time we corrected this anomaly.  What better forum to create equity in the distribution of rights, wealth and resources than through the Constitution; the supreme law of the land?

Secondly, this Constitution should guard against any excesses in any of the power centres that emerge as a result.  A Constitution should also be crafted purposely to protect its people from the behaviour of the ruling elite.  It should take away the ability of a person or institution to usurp powers at the expense of the citizens.

Our Constitution should take into consideration worst-case scenarios in which we cannot predict the behaviour of future leaders.  We have witnessed the suffering of our African counterparts under the hands of extreme dictators.  How can we as citizens ensure that it never happens in Kenya?  This is our chance to rein in such tendencies that result in huge fights for power.

Thirdly, our thinking so far has been influenced by the upcoming elections in 2012 and we will more than likely make decisions that reflect our opinions on the leadership we want in place then.  Let us put ourselves in the shoes of other parties.  What if you no longer belong to the elite class or one of the predominant tribes?  What if you are severely disadvantaged in the future?  How would you want this Constitution to serve you and your people?

I am of the opinion, that we shouldn\’t allow short-sighted and myopic values to influence our thinking.  The year 2012 will come, we will elect our leaders, but after that we will still have the same fundamental problems if we do not work to resolve them now.  Let us aspire to a Constitution that will benefit our children and their offspring; a Constitution that will withstand reproach beyond our own life times. 

For me, these three principles should be the measuring gauge that we use to help us make our decisions on the type of Constitution that we want.  When you read it – and I urge you to do so – ask yourself these three questions: does the particular issue promote equal rights, protect against the excesses of power, and serve the needs of future generations?

If you cannot answer in the affirmative, then for our country\’s sake, change your decision.  At the end of the day, we must be moved by our own convictions and not the selfish rhetoric of our politicians.

Let us aspire to improve this Constitution for the betterment of Kenya\’s sovereign citizens.

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