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Let’s not mislead the people on the draft constitution

Posted Monday, November 30 2009 at 18:28
The Nation Newspaper

I have been studying the harmonised draft constitution for the past one week as I listened to our politicians talk about it. A good number of them have made misleading statements about it, seemingly, with the intention of scuttling it.
When the Committee of Experts (CoE) released the draft, they did not say we should vote for it; they said we should debate it and suggest how to improve it.
But some politicians are already dismissing it instead of channelling their views to the committee.
Some of the noises being made by politicians are quite annoying. Their obsession with Chapter 12 of the draft gives one the impression that they haven’t read the entire document.
A good number seem to have a hidden agenda: to mislead us into rejecting the draft on the basis of their perceived fears about the drastic shift suggested in this chapter which deals with the structure of the executive.
SOME ARGUE THAT EXECUTIVE authority should vest in an individual, either the president or prime minister, but not both, and this individual should be directly elected by the people.
These politicians seem to be suffering from collective amnesia. For many years, Kenyans have suffered due to the misuse of power by an individual with executive powers. They have forgotten that the people of this country are sick of being governed by individuals with total authority over them. Kenyans do not want imperial presidency or prime minister. They have said this loud and clear.
If this draft constitution is enacted in the form in which it is now, we will have said goodbye to the imperial presidency. An individual will not have the power to dish out the wealth of this nation to his cronies again — not ever.
We will also have minimised the competition for the presidency, which is what led to bloodshed last year.
Since the draft is presenting a shift from the past, some people who were brought up in the old system that guaranteed them opportunities by virtue of their surnames or political affiliation will definitely oppose it.
Others, especially those advanced in age, do not want change from an old order to a new one. They are uncomfortable. That is why they are agitating for a return of the old ways of doing things.
Kenyans particularly the younger lot, should not allow these politicians to confuse them. This is the moment to get a new constitution.
Politicians, who are seizing every opportunity, including funerals, to dismiss the draft on the basis of Chapter 12 are being irresponsible. This draft provides us with the best opportunity to chart new paths for this nation and cast into the dustbin of history the excess baggage that we have shouldered over the years.
The chapter on devolution is well-conceived. Again it presents a real opportunity for Kenyans to reclaim their role in our democracy.
For a long time, they have felt that a centralised governance system, which was inherited from our colonisers, was untenable. This system has been discredited and cannot withstand the challenges of the 21st century. It only breeds political prejudice. Indeed, devolution will serve both administrative and political functions, which are clearly delineated.

The draft gives power of self-governance to the local communities. This system will, at best, enhance participation of the people in exercise of power.
The draft does not advance a majimbo (federal) system, as some people would like us to believe, but a decentralised system. An equally erroneous argument is that the draft law will be too expensive.
THIS LATTER ARGUMENT IS MISLEADING because the draft does not add anything on the existing structure, but replaces it with a leaner three-tier democratic system.
If there is anything that will resonate well with the Kenyans in the Diaspora, then it is the dual citizenship clause. For many years, Kenyans abroad have been agitating for this. With this, we shall be able to attract direct investment from Kenyans living in other countries.
Women will also have everything to smile about if the new law is enacted since it clearly provides for gender equity in representation. Now at every stage of leadership, women’s voice will be clear. In this provision, we all win.
Prof Kabaji is the director of Public Affairs and Communication in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (egarakabaji@yahoo.com)