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February 18, 2019

G-Spot: As in fashion, what goes around comes around in politics

Tiaty MP Kassit Kamket
Tiaty MP Kassit Kamket

Nobody could ever accuse me of being a fashion guru, but over the years I have observed that the world of fashion often appears to be cyclical.

For instance, around the time I was born, fashionable men’s clothing was all about the pencil: thin tie, narrow lapels on jackets and drainpipe trousers. Meanwhile, fashionable women were all about the mini-skirt and knee-high boots.

Five years later, everything was longer and or wider: the ties were brightly coloured and very wide and the lapels had quadrupled in width as had the collars. The skirts were being worn just below the knee or all the way down to the ankles, as with maxis, which were the opposite of minis. 

These fashions lingered and then came the 1980s, when for women, shoulder pads as worn on the super soaps Dallas and Dynasty, were de rigueur. Meanwhile, smaller, buttoned-down collars were back, and the ties had gone back to being thinner, too.

Recently, the mini-skirts for women and the slim fit trousers for men have made a return, as has the waistcoat, worn with lapels, as was fashionable back in the 1920s.

If it is true that what goes around comes around in fashion. I think the same can be said of Kenyan politics.

For instance, when Tiaty MP Kassit Kamket recently came up with the proposal to change the constitution to create a powerful Prime Minister and a mainly ceremonial presidency, I had the inescapable feeling of déjà vu. This was because Kamket’s idea sounded almost exactly like an idea that then Attorney General Amos Wako (now Busia Senator) came up with shortly after his appointment to the AG’s office back in 1991.

There was talk of constitutional change in the run-up to the December 1991 repeal of Section 2A, which returned the country to a multi-party state. If I remember well, Wako suggested that Kenya adopt a system of governance similar to that of France. 

Immediately after this suggestion, there was a flurry of excitement among politicians both within the ruling party and without.

Some in the media even went as far as to suggest that this might be the perfect solution to Kenya’s problem at the time, which was that of a powerful presidency without any practical parliamentary checks and balances, or in the buzz phrase of the time, “transparency and accountability”.

Just as the conversation began on this idea, some in the then opposition began to voice their suspicion that President Moi wanted to use the idea to cling onto power, leaving the presidency to return as PM. They came out and shot it down. 

They needn’t have bothered, because shortly afterwards, the President emerged and effectively shot the suggestion down. There were so many other things going on back in 1991 that the idea was soon forgotten and overtaken by events and would disappear until it was dusted off and tweaked for the 21st century and nicknamed “the Wako Draft”.

Kamket’s suggestion may just be a trial balloon, as some said Wako’s was in 1991, but you see how what goes around comes around?

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