POWERFUL, INDEPENDENT, INCORRUPTIBLE

Use referendum to strengthen institutions

In Summary

• While we are mostly focused on the Executive, which is more about sharing political power, we have given little focus on the institutions that serve all Kenyans.

Once upon a time, a Goat and a Fox jumped into a deep well to drink water. Neither could get out of the well alone. The Goat was talked into helping the Fox to jump on his back to leave the well, who then left the Goat on his own.

The moral of this short story is that a wise person will debate every pro and con before coming to fix upon any resolution.

The referendum debate has been going on for some time now and everyone seems to have an idea of what should be done to improve our Constitution. The discussions have largely been centred on the Executive, position of prime minister and functions of government.

No one seems to be focused on discussing how to strengthen institutions based on what the nation has learnt since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010.

Let me admit here that I am a big supporter of US President Donald Trump. I may not agree with most of his policies, but I admire his passion to push his agenda forward with a goal to transform the US.

What amazes me is that despite his aggressiveness, the US institutions are so powerful and independent that they can operate independent of him, and even impeach him if he breaks the law.

Do we have such empowered and independent institutions in Kenya?

It is not in question that we need to get it right on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the National Land Commission and the entire legal justice system.

This is the thinking that we must put forward as we look at our institutions to ensure that they live up to their calling.

Over the last nine years, we have seen what is working and what is not, which should be the basis of the referendum everyone is asking for.

While we are mostly focused on the Executive, which is more about sharing political power, we have given little focus on the institutions that serve all Kenyans.

It is not in question that we need to get it right on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the National Land Commission and the entire legal justice system.

If we do not reform the IEBC, we are opening ourselves to unending political struggles in the 2022 election as well as the upcoming boundaries review. We must use any upcoming referendum to ensure that we strengthen and streamline the IEBC ahead of those two events.

The NLC is currently more of a shell of its former self where even some of its former commissioners are being charged with corruption. We cannot continue to get reasonable and successful land reforms in the country if we do not look at how to strengthen and streamline the NLC.

While we are seeing changes in the police, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Director of Public Prosecutions and Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission, we need to do more and must use this referendum to strengthen these institutions further.

At the same time, the Judiciary has been cited as the weak link in dispensing justice and the referendum may be a moment to ensure that we see what needs to be changed.

Institutions are the cornerstone of our democracy and it is time to start discussions on how to strengthen and empower them, ensuring that no one person can manipulate them. There are those who have claimed that the EACC, DCI, DPP, IEBC, NLC and even the Judiciary have been manipulated to get some sort of results.

And so as we think of this referendum, we must first think of how we must empower the independent commissions, especially in regards to how they are financed to avoid manipulation by the Executive.

Additionally, county governments must receive funds directly from the Exchequer based on CRA allocations, not from a national government department. We must also empower the office of the DPP, Auditor General and Controller of Budget to execute their oversight role effectively.

At the end of it all, what is most important is for our institutions to work well for the betterment of the country and its people.