GOVERNANCE

Delink state from government

The rain started beating us when the position of head of state was abolished.

In Summary
  • State resources and machinery at the disposal of a ruling party flagbearer are a threat to free, fair and credible elections.
  • As long as MPs are entrusted with reforms and constitution-making, the country is headed for a disaster of monumental proportions.

December 12, 1964, is a date like no other in the memory of Kenyan political historians. It was the first anniversary of the country’s Independence and proclamation of a republic that climaxed reverses in the political careers of critics and opened the floodgates for circumstantial constitutional changes.

The just-celebrated 10th anniversary of the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution would be incomplete without reference to the genesis of perennial wrangles over constitutional and legal breaches that mock the dreams of peaceful co-existence and stability.

The progressive Independence constitution with in-built checks and balances Britain helped nationalists draw up at Lancaster House was butchered ruthlessly in subsequent years, provoking street protests for reforms. 

The rain started beating us when the position of head of state, held by the Governor General Malcolm Macdonald, was abolished and his functions transferred to the Prime Minister’s office, occupied by Jomo Kenyatta, who acquired the title of President.

Since then presidents and heads of government wielded immense power against critics, real and imagined. Among the fundamental changes that leapfrogged the head of state and government to an imperial president were the dissolution of the opposition, scrapping of the Senate, death of the regional governments and resurrection of detention without trial. State institutions served at the behest of the government of the day. The same is the case today.

State resources and machinery at the disposal of a ruling party flagbearer are a threat to free, fair and credible elections. The incumbent has an edge over rival candidates and their outfits. As crafted, electoral laws provide a perfect opportunity for voter, bribery, chaos and manipulation. The electoral agency is a toothless bulldog in the noisy campaigns that are a threat to peace.

Reforms without delinking the state from the ruling party and changing the electoral format and process will be an exercise in futility. The electoral system has to be changed to conform to the dictates of democratic tenets.

Given the past mistakes in legislative chambers, lawmakers are not the best bet for reforms. They have been the architects of mutilation of the supreme law to suit circumstances. The Building Bridges Initiative report will not be spared their knife, which also butchered the Bomas and Committee of Experts drafts.

That can only be done if parties play complementary roles in ensuring that constitutional demands such as gender parity and special interest groups in elective and appointive positions are in their irrevocable party lists filed with the elections agency before polls.

Proportional representation system in which the electorate choose parties instead of individuals of wealth and might could be the remedy to the unnecessary standoff in the male-dominated chambers and electoral malpractices.

State and governments are inseparable offices in pseudo democracies and socialist systems but not in a democracy. President Uhuru Kenyatta unlike his three predecessors, including his father, is not a member of Parliament but he hosts Jubilee parliamentary group meetings at State House.

Had the legislators rooted for the retention of the position of head of state and government as separate offices within the Executive with distinct roles, Kenya would not have plunged into a political quagmire.

As long as MPs are entrusted with reforms and constitution-making, the country is headed for a disaster of monumental proportions. One such is the umpteenth failure of the Senate to solve the small problem of the division of revenue to the counties

 

From the look of things, service delivery preference is and was to voters in the region where the president comes from – hence the shameless plunder of national resources and skewed development. Traitors, defectors and sycophants reaped big from the purse string-pullers in the years gone and now.

So, Mt Kenya leaders were not at fault to confront Uhuru and demand special favours at the expense of others from one of their own in the house on the hill. The head of state was accused of neglecting the region and paying undue attention to the opposition stronghold in his second and last term.

Given the past mistakes in legislative chambers, lawmakers are not the best bet for reforms. They have been the architects of mutilation of the supreme law at all stages to suit circumstances. The Building Bridges Initiative report on reforms will not be spared the legislators' knife, which also butchered the Bomas and Committee of Experts drafts.