WEAPONISING BBI

It will be dangerous to have a PM with no real power, work to do

The most likely occupants of such offices shall be individuals of ethnic communities, or coalitions of what I refer to as ethno-political derivatives

In Summary

• We need to interrogate such scenarios in our expansionist project of the Executive to create a clear hierarchy and political order.

•  A premier appointed from amongst MPs by the president and who can be equally sacked creates another tier of representation without any safeguards of political order.

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27.
BBI REVIEW: President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27.
Image: COURTESY

One of the most interesting contradictions of the BBI process is the manner in which the report diagnoses what ails our country, but the same creativity and talent isn’t displayed when it comes to treatment.

It appears there was some kind of rush to meet some deadline or assuage certain political interests. This is so because the report has been returned to the sender, essentially taking the food back to the kitchen, ostensibly because it lacks some basic ingredients. It is true that all the problems bedeviling our nation-state cannot be encapsulated through the creation of the position of a weak prime minister.

Lockean constitutionalism calls for fidelity to the constitution and the rule of law. For instance, within the structure of our legislative arm, you cannot aim at strengthening devolution, while at the same time weakening the Senate, by giving more power and privilege to the National Assembly through the premier. He would only be answerable to that house, despite the fact that he can draw his cabinet from both houses.

Secondly, if legislation is purportedly enacted in a bicameral setting without the input of the Senate, it further weakens rather than strengthens devolution, in terms of creating checks and balances.

Thirdly, a premier appointed from amongst MPs by the president and who can be equally sacked creates another tier of representation without any safeguards of political order.

This is so because the current position of Deputy President is very weak. In fact, the current occupant has just managed to make it look powerful through sheer force of personality. Otherwise, it’s a powerless office only meant to ‘assist’ the President in his absence or through delegation.

The above raises pertinent concerns about the elements of our state and constitutionalism. Constitutions are made to govern and thus safeguard relations. We seem to be saying that the creation of more positions in government will help us relate better as communities and Kenyans.

Tellingly, the existence of the positions of President and Deputy President not only captures the struggles of the aspirations of various communities’ quest to capture state power but also puts into focus the soft underbelly of individual character traits of politicians seeking to occupy such posts.

In effect, such positions don’t necessarily pre-empt competition for power within the Executive. It is and will, therefore, be possible to have an occupant of a powerful state office acting in a manner as to occasion his own powerlessness while others only need a pen and paper to create a monolith of sorts from their positions of insignificant authority through charisma, shrewdness and giftedness. 

Power is not so much how it’s defined but how it’s exercised. Recently, there have been clever assertions aimed at recusing political culpability on the part of the Deputy President with regards to the running of government, while at the same time laying direct culpability on the President by way of reference to constitutional definitions. Yet both were elected on a joint ticket.

Effectively, we need to interrogate such scenarios in our expansionist project of the Executive to create a clear hierarchy and political order. This is putting into consideration that the most likely occupants of such offices shall be individuals of ethnic communities, or coalitions of what I refer to as ethno-political derivatives such as GEMA, Kalenjin and Luhya.

This calls for new imagination and creativity aimed at enhancing the rule of law rather than the rule of the jungle, through our law-making.  Otherwise, there is nothing more dangerous than having the leader of a whole section of Kenyan communities in a supposedly high office with no real power or work to do — essentially a high nothing.

This is akin to being promoted to the highest level of political incompetence (Peter Principle). Remember the idle assistant ministers of yore who had no official roles leading to a protest led by Kalembe Ndile, Mwangi Kiunjuri, Cecily Mbarire and Ferdinand Waititu during the Grand Coalition government?

That government had a president, a vice president, a prime minister two deputies, and 42 odd ministries!

Every political contest has a winner and a loser. BBI ideally shouldn’t be a contest on the same, for if it is weaponised to create an ‘us versus them’, it defeats the very objective that was conceived by the two protagonists ab initio — that of finding lasting solutions to our high-risk politics.

All in all, the ultimate motivation of public service must remain to be that of making Kenya a better place through prudent sharing of the inter-generational burden and benefits and just sharing power as an end in itself.