Kenya held at ransom by system of government

Tuesday October 31 2017


Nasa supporters in Kondele, Kisumu County, protest against the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 30, 2017. The new constitution was meant to fix our politics by decentralising power and solving historical injustices. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Duncan Green, in his book How Change Happens, argues that nations that have seized critical junctures in their history have effectively been able to address internal inadequacies.

Those critical junctures, he advances, are windows of opportunity provided by failures, crises, changes in leadership, natural disasters, or conflicts.

On Monday, listening to electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati’s speech, which touched on sensitive issues that form the current tension in the country, I could not help but go back to the issues Dr Green raised.

Mr Chebukati sought answers to the divisive and ferociously fought presidential elections, their polarisation effect to the nation, the peculiarity of our polls and whether there is any hope in Kenya as a democracy.

Giving his reflections on How Change Happens, American political economist Francis Fukuyama is of the view that social change requires power and therefore there should be attention to reformers of politics and the institutions within which power is exercised.

One of the positive outcomes that emerged from the 2007/08 post election violence was the unanimous resolve by political players to ensure that Kenya gets a new constitution that will address the inadequacies in our political, economic, social and cultural institutions that led to the death of at least 1,133 people.

The new constitution, which had been at the center of political activism since 1990, was meant to fix our politics by decentralising power, fixing distribution of wealth and national resources, fixing the Judiciary, creating an independent electoral commission, solving historical injustices against minority groups and placing the country on the path to political and economic development.

These problems, I prefer to call them challenges, were blamed on the centrist government system, which had been in power since independence.

Suggestions at the time were to decentralise power by expanding the executive, establish devolution to take power and financial resources to the grassroots, separate the Executive from Legislature and Judiciary and invite public participation in national decisions.

In so doing, you will be creating a democratic state that is also developmental.

How does politics and economics interact to trigger development?

The late Prof Adrian Leftwich, a South African says: “I define developmental states as those states whose successful economic and social development performance illustrates how their political purposes and institutional structures (especially their bureaucracies) have been developmentally-driven, while their developmental objectives have been politically driven.”

It was with this thinking that the Committee of Experts (CoE) chaired by lawyer Nzamba Kitonga was formed in 2009 to draft a constitution that was to fix the loopholes that had created windows for political intolerance, economic stagnation and marginalisation of some communities.

It comprised foreign experts Prof Christina Murray (South Africa), Dr Chaloka Beyani (Zambia) and Frederick Ssempembwa (Uganda).

The local experts were Njoki Ndung’u, Atsango Chesoni, Otiende Amolo, Nzamba Kitonga, Abdirashid Hussein and Bobby Mkangi.

The Harmonised Draft Constitution they came up with at the end of 2009 proposed a parliamentary system of government, which expanded the Executive to include the president, deputy president, deputy prime minister and the cabinet.

Under this structure, the president, as the head of State, was to be directly elected by the people, while the PM, who was to be the head of government, was to be appointed by the president, and be the leader of majority party in Parliament.

Parliament was to have an opposition leader whose rank was to be that of a minister while also providing for position of deputy ministers.

In other proposals, the Senate was designated as the upper house, while the National Assembly as the lower house.

This critical juncture, however, was lost when the Parliamentary Select Committee on Review of the Constitution then chaired by Mr Abdikadir Mohamed, now President Uhuru Kenyatta’s advisor, scrutinised it in Naivasha.

Former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba was vice chairman.

It is significant that some members of the committee were President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, Nasa co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula, and Siaya Senator James Orengo.

The CoE had identified the system of government, devolution, and transitional clauses as the contentious issues.

In its report in Parliament on January 29, 2010, the committee had reversed the CoE’s proposal for a parliamentary system of government and settled on a purely presidential system.

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