Keep party wars out of Constitution

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BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO

“By virtue  of the provisions  of the  Kenya Independence Act ,1963, Kenya  will  attain  fully responsible  status  within the  Commonwealth on  12th December, 1963. This  order  makes  provision  for  a new constitution  for Kenya from that date’’, reads  a  two  sentence footnote in the original Lancaster House Order in  Council  tabled in the Legislative  Council  a week before  independence. 

Amid  acrimonious  exchanges, detentions  without trial  and dispersals on police  horsebacks at one time or another, this  self explanatory note  answers  the dream  of  anxious Kenyans   47 years later. The long duration taken to get a supreme law never pricked most   political leaders save for the post election violence and intervention by the international community.

At long last, the  Constitution made  by Kenyans  for Kenyans whose blood have been spilled, others perished and detained in the quest for favourable  changes in governance  was enacted on August  4, 2010  in one of the most peaceful  polls  in known history, save  for few  nasty exchanges between the proponents  and opponents of the  document. 

The  just  concluded referendum  campaign is  one  latest example in many  that  suggests  that  some Kenyans  are  not ready for change in peace time but would rather perpetuate one-man dictatorship  under the guise of national unity.

The 2007  post-election  violence  and the international  intervention accelerated the pace  for the badly needed  change which  could have waited  many years past the  Golden  Independence Jubilee celebrations due in three years. 

Amongst other things, the new law restructures the notorious colonial outfit, the provincial administration that has been an  impediment to change. The   regional  governments  in the “independence  constitution” never took off ostensibly because  their  roles  allegedly  duplicated  or conflicted with those  of the  administration.

Retention of this cruel outfit long after independence was for ulterior purposes amongst them perpetuation of suppression of rights and freedoms of communities and individuals in areas of jurisdiction. 

Forgetful politicians, who at  one  time or another were the subject of humiliation and intimidation by these uniformed  brutes were the loudest campaigners for the retention of the  provincial  administration. Forty seven   counties will replace the eight provinces  in the devolved governance  and economic structure.

Before  minimum reforms were  initiated by  political pressure  parliamentary political parties, the  administration licensed political rallies    and were also  in  charge  of elections  in which  only  politically  correct individuals  were pushed  to parliament and  other elective posts. Will the powerful provincial  administration  allow itself to disappear  without  resistance?

A clear separation of parliamentary and  executive  authority in the new political dispensation is a  belated relief from  mixed  and conflicting roles. Ministers   will be  appointed  from outside  the legislature. Constituents can also recall  non performing representatives.  Another welcome change  is the in-built  checks  in  the  bicameral  legislature. Clauses creating the  senate  and advocating recall  were erased from  the  Bomas draft  and vain  attempts   to downplay  the senate\’s  role  was ignored by the Committee of Experts (CoE).

Between 2003 and   2004   Kenyans  congregated for the  first  time  for National Constitutional Conference (NCC) at the Bomas of Kenya   to make   a  new constitution  but “special”  delegates  betrayed  this  noble  course.

Behind  other delegates, parliamentarians   ganged up  to  doctor  the  final  draft which voters  rejected   in an illegal and noisy referendum.  Prior to that, the  former  regime  ordered the police  to disperse  a  similar gathering at the same venue diverse interests explain how slippery the road  to a new  law was.

The  reluctance of  post independence leaders   to make  a new  constitution and  formulate   fresh laws for the  people of a newly born  nation explains  volumes. Until recently known as, the  Kenya  Constitution, the  Order in Council  that  bears   ugly  patches, derogatory  clauses and the  colonial  statutes renamed Acts served the political class better than what we have today.

It is safe  to conclude that leaders were interested in  the flag independence   rather than charting out  a  destiny for  the nation that had undergone  physical  bush  struggle  against  white settler rule. One leader remarked,  there  was no need of replacing this  constitution    with something radical and revolutionary.

It did not, therefore, surprise political pundits when some leaders  and  the  Christian clergy were  on the   campaign trail  for the rejection of the  document and the reverse to the  status quo.

In our midst, there are dreamers of   business as usual  who subscribe to the old order and hope  that the same could  be exported  to the  restructured  administration.  Kenyans are aware  that all  sorts  tricks  in the book could be used  to manipulate   the  lesser  mortals whose voices  cannot be heard  beyond polling stations. These fears  are  not  without basis.  A precedent to go by is  in the  foregoing  brief narrative.

Betrayal cannot be ruled  out  in a  journey  to  the  implementation of the  document that promises to make  Kenya better. It should also be noted that the spirits of the  forces that hijacked recent minimum reforms and  the  country’s independence are  still alive and kicking. Over their  dead bodies, would Kenyans  initiate and embrace people friendly reforms.

For goodness and God\’s sake and for the sake of peaceful Kenyans, keep political wrangles  out of the  implementation of  the  new  Constitution.

(The  writer is  a former cabinet minister and  secretary general of   two different national parties  in his long  political career in  Kenya. Email: [email protected] )

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