Forget amendments, legitimize new law first

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JOSEPH KAMOTHO

Every Kenyan across the political divide celebrates the coming into being of a new law that promises to transform the former British colony into a better country.  The long struggle for a new Constitution has come to a successful end and the beginning of a very  agonising implementation journey which requires unity in diversity, tolerance and forgiveness.

The turnout at the chaos free referendum was a clear proof that Kenyans recovering from the 2007 bloody post election skirmishes wanted a new Constitution not the hitherto rhetoric.  But the conditional acceptance speech by the de facto opposition leader, William Ruto rekindles belligerence visited on Kenyans in 2007 general elections.

The Higher Education minister\’s statement does not augur well for the country that is yet to recover from the violence that claimed more than thousand lives, maimed many, properties lost and nearly half million displaced.

Ruto said that Kenyans should get down to a round table with the other side of the divide to thrash out contentious issues in the Constitution before the country can move forward.  For the time being, contentious clauses are history.

Leaders should be talking about the Bills pending before the House and the  time-frame within which they would be enacted rather than remind Kenyans of the differences in the interpretation of the law amended – by amongst others Ruto at Naivasha.

Some of the clauses were and are the bone of contention in the just concluded referendum campaigns led by none other than Members of Parliament that had unanimously voted for the amended  draft.

The traditional personalisation of constitutional debates should not be the guide in a new political dispensation that promises to reform institutions and even tribal outfits called political  parties.

The challenge therefore, is for every leader to rehearse the unity of purpose in the forthcoming constitutional debates  in which all the participants will be amateurs.  For purposes of harmony and peaceful transitions, the name calling that characterised the campaigns  should not be exported to the constitutional debates in the chamber.  Challenges ahead are monumental and sobriety should guide our leaders in the implementation of the new law. 
 
Kenya is  bigger  than all of us and it is Kenyans who have spoken (and spoken loudly) that they are for a new Constitution, contentious  clauses notwithstanding. There is no perfect constitution in the  world and the Lancaster House document and its circumstantial patches that has been in operation for the last 47 years is not perfect either.

Ruto is a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution and participated in the post violence negotiations presided over by none other than the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

It was in that meeting that the peace negotiators drew up the reform agenda amongst them a comprehensive Constitution review and its delivery within a time frame.  The minister is better placed to preach unity and peace than any other leader in this country today.

If the events of the past are anything to go by, then Kenyans are in for rough times ahead of the implementation of the just enacted new  constitution drafted for the first time by Kenyans for Kenyans. Said elsewhere in this story, the legislators are amateurs who had  specialised in circumstantial amendments of the Order in Council mutilated and rebaptised Kenya Constitution in 1969.

One  recent  example  was the repeal of Section 2 (A)  clause  in the  old  Constitution  that  re-introduced  competitive politics officially outlawed in 1982. Eighteen years later, a multi party Kenya is a far cry from a democratic State because of lack of political will to embrace democratic  doctrines in registered  parties.

Kenya was unilaterally turned into a republic a year after independence and the late Prime Minister, Jomo Kenyatta became a president without going through an election in 1964.  Colonial Ordinances unquestionably became laws in the aftermath of this structural change. Since then, whatever amendments that were made were supposed to suit the political or individual leaders.  From now on that is also history.  

(The author is a former Cabinet Minister and national official of two major political parties in Kenya. Email: [email protected])

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