The rule of law is at the heart of a just society.
It is not simply because it allows for sound and fair principles to prevail but mostly because it creates an environment for steady and fundamental growth to occur. Suffice it to say, however, that this is increasingly becoming one of the most disregarded concepts more so on our continent.
In 2016’s Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), the category of Safety and Rule of Law was found to have suffered a major decline over the past 10 years in the continent. The report says that, 33 out 54 African countries have deteriorated in Safety and Rule of Law since 2006; and 15 of these rather significantly.
But why is this the case? Is it simply because we refuse to acknowledge the vital link between economic development and the rule of law? In recent years, conversations of rule of law have moved from being mere facets of political and legal rhetoric to become a fundamental ideal that drives global thought on economic development and sustainability.
In order to realise economic development, any country must adhere to the promotion and protection of human rights. Economist Daniel Kaufmann, formerly a director at the World Bank Institute, work out what he and his colleague Aart Kraay call the 300pc dividend to explain this link. Simply that a country’s income per head rises by an approximate 300pc if governance improves by one standard variation. So if the rule of law is adhered to, then the nation is on an upward trajectory in economic growth and development.
If we look at our own country, the IIAG index’s finding is not too far off from our reality and lived experiences. In the past month alone we have had instances in which the rule of law was flaunted, threatening the security of individuals and stability in the country. In Laikipia, the invasion of private land by armed mobs has threatened the security of farmers in that area causing irreparable damage and worse still loss of life.
Yet there is a lot that can be done by government to ensure equitable distribution of resources, so that this can cease to be an excuse for unethical politicians to seek votes. Additionally, decisive steps to secure property and lives of those affected should be taken as this is reported to be escalating towards the election period.
Similarly, the case of a politician firing his gun at former KAM Chairman Polycarp Igathe in broad day light and in a crowd of people was a show of blatant disregard for the law and for human life. I believe that had the rule of law been the prevailing guide then it would not have been easy for him to casually use deadly force in that situation.
In the index above, Safety and Rule of law ranked poorly mainly due to deterioration in the Personal Safety and National Security indicators as well as Accountability. If we cannot be certain of our personal safety in this country, while making investments, transacting business, carrying out legal notices or simply just exercising our rights as citizens to exist freely, then our efforts towards nation building and economic development are in vain. The rule of law stands on accountability.
Individuals, groups, institutions must be held accountable for malpractices that undermine the safety and security of other citizens. Upholding the rule of law means severe repercussions for any acts that contravene human rights. This will ensure that justice and fairness prevails and the law is given due respect in all aspects
In 1959, the International Commission of Jurists in The “declaration of Delhi” said that the rule of law “should be employed to safeguard and advance the civil and political rights of the individual” and create “conditions under which his legitimate aspirations and dignity may be realized”. I believe that this stands to date and should be instilled in all our institutional and social ideals in order for us to achieve national cohesion and economic growth for our country.
(The writer is the Chairlady of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)