Kenyan PM address to Parliament

September 29, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 29 – Mr Speaker Sir,

Over the past three decades, the long journey towards the establishment of a new democratic constitutional order never seemed to end.  Despite the commitment and determination of the Kenyan people to bring about political change and reform, for many years, the intransigence of the old order and the absence of political will frustrated all the efforts made by Kenyans to create a democratic society based on human rights, equality, freedom, social justice and the rule of law.

Then the historic and constitutional moment came on 4th August 2010 when the Kenyan people voted to adopt and enact the Constitution having fully participated in the making of the Constitution.  The promulgation of the Constitution by His Excellency, President Mwai Kibaki amidst pomp and pageantry on 27th August, 2010 was Kenya’s “finest hour”, in the words of Winston Churchill.

But remember this.  Constitutions are never mere parchments of words with ringing lamentations of our fears and the proclamation of the promises of our hopes.  A Constitution is a living document that is often achieved through the blood and sweat of the broad masses of the people.  A Constitution is a living document “that must be read to give values and aspirations of the people”.  Through the sweat and blood of the great Kenyan people our Constitution was born on 27th August 2010, the effective date, the day of promulgation.

The task ahead now is to implement the New Constitution of Kenya by making it a living document, not a hollow script.  I repeat, our first task is to implement the Constitution and not just to confine ourselves as a Parliament to the duty and obligation of enacting enabling or implementing legislation.  That is why the responsibility of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution includes oversight over the implementation of the Constitution and ensuring that the letter and spirit of the Constitution is respected.

I am sincerely worried about the level and content of the debate taking place in the country on the weighty issue of implementing the New Constitution.  In my respectful view, you do not contribute an iota of sense or set a way forward in the debate by declaring your candidature for the elective position of governor or senator in this or that county or for the onerous position of the President of the Republic of Kenya in 2010.  To the contrary you are contaminating the debate and derailing the implementation of the Constitution.

Implementation means that the national values and principles of governance which include integrity and transparency must be enforced now.  The essential pillars of the New Constitution on which rest all the structures of governance including the representation of the people, the executive, the judiciary and devolution, are found in Chapter Four and Chapter Six of the Constitution, that is the Bill of Rights and Leadership and Integrity.

And for this to happen, we need a new Kenyan person who sees things as they should and must be, and not as they are or they were.  Without this political metamorphosis we will have a fixation both in time and space that will force us to believe that Kenya cannot exist without provincial commissioners, district commissioners and chiefs.  Indeed with this kind of mindset there are people who believe up to now that governors cannot co-exist with a president as governors were the ultimate and supreme authority in colonial days.  When the Constitution states that the system of provincial administration will be restructured even a tortured interpretation will not necessarily mean that the system will be retained lock, stock and barrel.  With the system of county governments there will be no place for provincial commissioners because the province as a unit of government or as an administrative entity is not contemplated under the New Constitution.  That is not to say the Provincial Commissioners will lose their jobs or that no new administrative structures will be established.

In good time, this House will enact a law on Devolved Government.  Such law will define the relationship between the Central Government and the County Government.  It will establish the administrative structures within each County Government.  This new administrative framework will succeed the system formerly known as the Provincial Administration.  Consequently, present actions to redeploy officers within the Provincial Administration are interim pending the enactment of the Law on Devolved Government.

We need a new Kenyan person who believes in a corruption free society.  We cannot bring honour to the nation and dignity to public office and we cannot promote public confidence in the integrity of public office if we are influenced and driven by nepotism, negative ethnicity and favouritism.  We cannot bring objectivity and impartiality in decision-making in government if one’s character is bedeviled by egoism and misplaced illusions of grandeur.

Implementing the chapter of leadership and integrity and the responsibilities of leadership require that we rid the public service of corruption now, not tomorrow.  Impunity must be punished.  The beginning of the erosion of our moral foundations and values is to postpone the punishment of crimes including corruption and economic crimes or when we give room in the management of public affairs to those who do not pass the constitutional tests in leadership and integrity.

This is the time for us to talk about how to build our institutions and provide the infrastructure and framework for implementing the Constitution.  We need to debate on the electoral reform before we proclaim from the hill tops who will be a governor or senator or president.  Kenyans are not the “wretched of the earth” to be held hostage or led by the might of the purse or the arrogance political power for we have not chosen kleptocracy as our preferred system of government.  We believe in the equality of all God’s children, men and women.  As the Bible says “male and female created he them” – [Genesis Chapter 1 verse 27 – Kings James version]. 

Unless we can enforce the Bill of Rights, today and not tomorrow, the New Constitution will be like an ancient verse, remembered for its rhyme and rhythm, but not for its content.  By the command of the Constitution, we are a society of free people who have retained sovereign power to be exercisable only in accordance with the Constitution.  Let no state organ or state officer however mighty or low retreat to Kenya’s dark days when politics was discussed in whispers behind closed doors and with everybody watching his or her back.  The days of detention without trial must never come back in whatever shade or form.  Above all let our people freely cross the land without hindrance, speak without fear, assemble and associate without suppression knowing that as all great nations, we are now born in liberty and freedom and are united under one Constitution to live in peace and prosperity.

Under the New Constitution the people have chosen parliament as the institution to enact legislation required by the Constitution.  Parliament is the primary driver in this process.  The Attorney General in consultation with the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution has a role in the preparation of the relevant Bills for tabling before parliament.  So have Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee and the Law Reform Commission. NGO’s and the people also have a role because inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and the participation of the people are part of our national values and principles of governance as set out in Article 10 of the Constitution.
In this process therefore this parliament has a historic role and mission. I am happy that parliament under the leadership of the Speaker has not let Kenyans down. If there was a time for parliament to speak in one voice like we did to enact the National Accord that time is now. If there was a time to rise above the politics of bigotry ethnocentrism and hate, like we did when we approved the Draft Constitution, now is the time.

The role of the Executive has not diminished.  But the Executive must now truly constitute a government of the people, by the people for the people. The road ahead is for the Executive to believe in consultations and open governance that it is based on consent of the citizenry not just on the day of voting but by seeking all the time to express in its decisions and actions the will of the people. And yes, it can be done and must be done because the ringing voice of the people of Kenya in the Constitution says:
Thank you.

Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga, EGH, MP

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


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