Keep chauvinists and idle minds out of review process

May 29, 2009 12:00 am

, Behind the adjourned National Constitutional Conference (NCC), a Committee of Experts on Constitution Review has been formed by the Legislature to fine tune and consolidate the existing parallel drafts. In contravention of the rules of procedure and the oath of allegiance, the Executive colluded with the Legislature and re-opened the sealed final draft for circumstantial amendments. Consequently, the adulterated document was rejected in a referendum in 2005.

Since inception, the Committee has been receiving pre-emptive boring written presentations from parliamentary political parties on the system of government Kenya should adopt in the new political dispensation. Party constitutions are in no doubt not democratic documents and are in perpetual conflict with the supreme law.

It comes as a  surprise therefore  that  the  leaders of the  same parties  and chauvinists  can turn round with new  proposals on the Executive when some  walked out of the NCC venue in 2004 over the  system of government the  country should adopt.

The proposals by none of these ideological parties are for and against parliamentary, presidential and to a lesser extent, the cumbersome hybrid system that exists in Kenya today. In  the  hybrid,  the  President is the Head of State  and Government  at the same time, a complete departure  from the mixed  Westminster and  the US  models  we  claim to have borrowed from.

Under the system, a minister who is also a Member of Parliament cannot table a Motion or ask questions regarding his constituency in Parliament. The only thing a minister can do to retain the grassroots support is diversion of the State resources to his or her constituency or that of the appointing authority.

A party with the majority in Parliament forms the government in the Westminster model and the party leader becomes the Prime Minister with powers to preside over Cabinet meetings and appoint ministers amongst elected legislators. 

In the US model, the presidential candidate is chosen by party caucuses to meet a challenger in a universal suffrage de-linked from the national and local elections.  The President and the Cabinet are not members of the Congress or Senate.  The numerical strength of parties in both chambers do not affect the day-to-day administration of the government.

Post apartheid  South African  cocktail  that  is a political  success  story in Africa  is hardly mentioned  or  considered  by introvert party barons in Kenya. Parties sit as an electoral college to fill their allocated slots in Parliament in proportion to the votes cast. The sponsoring parties have the power to recall non-performing and wayward legislators. The elections that have been held in the country that emerged from years of racial segregation have surprisingly been peaceful as opposed to Kenya’s chaotic polls.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) surprised doomsday prophets   in the emerging democracies when it de-whipped President Thabo Mbeki in one of the biggest democracy tests in Africa.  A recall clause amongst other "unpalatable" clauses was expunged from the Bomas draft on the unanimous decision by the Legislature and the Executive.

Elected leaders are not agents of change and should be the last to propagate change of a system at this point in time. They know of one, have one that serves and has served them better all the years.  At no time in history did the lawmakers challenge, change or suggest improvement on the existing system that relegates Parliament to a surrogate of the Executive.
The Committee would do Kenyans a lot of good by scrutinising the proposed changes by leaders and compare with those they made in the Bomas Draft and other drafts. The process should be an inclusive event in which the surviving Lancaster House Constitutional participants, civil society organisations, private sector and the general public views are taken into account.
Cognisant of the  fact that  successive governments  have  for one reason or  another failed to deliver  a new constitution, the civil society organisations  should  rise  up to the  challenge  and save Kenya  from its perennial problems.

Attempts to have a new a constitution have been elusive. It cost  the then ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) stranglehold  on power,  the National Rainbow  Coalition (NARC) disintegrated  and  the newfound  broad based coalition may become  a  casualty of its own pledge.

In light of the foregoing, political leaders and chauvinists should be distanced from fine tuning the drafts.

(The writer is a former Member of Parliament, Cabinet minister and Secretary General of two major political parties. Email [email protected])


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