BWIRE: Constitution, not Big 4 should be President Kenyatta’s legacy


BWIRE: Constitution, not Big 4 should be President Kenyatta's legacy
File image of President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO| PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy might not be the big four agenda, but a new constitution that radically alters the current governance structure.

While development enthusiasts would have wished the big four agenda, which is facing challenges would be the President’s landmark, the political-led process of reviewing a referendum after the Building Bridges Initiative might just be what will shape his legacy.

Those limiting the anticipated constitutional review to merely changing the constitution to create a few seats for some people miss the big picture: they are selfish and anti-people, who even after seeing the teething problems of the current presidential system and the dangers such governance system portends for the country.

The country needs a political system that is more accommodative and sensitive to our ethnic differences and historical injustices that have plagued us over the years.

Parliament must collectively oversight the counties, especially on resource utilization and revenue collection. The current arrangement is so loose, that Governors are just plundering county resources- even with decentralization, we must strengthen oversight.

The country needs to change the current governance system –we need a Parliamentary system where we have a Prime Minister drawn from the political party with majority in Parliament running government for a five-year term.

A critical re-look and reconsideration of the contents of the draft Constitution of Kenya March 15 2004 (commonly known as the Bomas Draft) suffices. In the Bomas draft, the Prime Minister, who had to be the leader of the largest political party or coalition in the National Assembly, would be appointed from among MPs with Parliament confirming their agreement with the President by voting.

The system offers a number of advantages; balance is provided in the government. The many independent strong institutions provide checks and balances, its stable and political future easy to predict and transfer of power tends to be smoother- given the respect for values, and entrenched democratic tradition, people respect change of government or loss in debates.

The Bomas draft had provided for similar political arrangement in Kenya like in UK, India and related but was abandoned.

The United Kingdom has a multi-party political system where the party with majority won during elections is given the term of the election cycle.

India is a federal Parliamentary democratic republic. The President of India is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. Finland political framework is based on Parliamentary representatives’ democracy.

The President has no choice but, after having seen the inability of the current constitutional arrangement unable to solve the country’s deep-rooted historical injustices, have and with experience have to push through a constitutional review process to have Kenya return to a Parliamentary system in favor of the current Presidential system.

The Presidential system has failed, and the President would have done a political magic by way of legacy to steer the country through the referendum.

The Parliamentary system has a number of the advantages among them easy to ensure representation of diverse group and better co-ordination between Legislature and Executive.

The strong institutions and respect for the constitution has enabled good coordination between the various levels of Government, prevents authoritarianism — the different structures supervised by the strong institutions prevents creating a god in the name of President.

It also ensures responsive Government and offers availability of alternative government — the different levels of government under the devolved government ensures that even when at the national level things are not working well, devolved governments function. County Governments in Kenya for example will do well on feeder roads or health care where the National Government is still struggling.

While the constitution tried to limit concentrating immense power to the Presidency, the truth of the matter is that with such weak political leaders, confused political parties and a fear of the president as seen in Kenya today, a rogue person and his/her cronies can decide to cling to power through rotating the presidency between themselves thus alienating the rest of the country.

This will be dangerous for the country, which has several times fought over resource-linked wars over the years.

A country with such diverse ethnic groups and grave historical injustices as Kenya, cannot survive peacefully and hold together as a nation, through a presidential system. With five ethnic groups (Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin and Kamba) dominating the political and economic spheres of life, there is no chance that the other groups will ever get to the Presidency and be extension resources to feel being comfortable and part of the Kenyan nation.

The fear that any of the big tribes will conspire to exclude others from leadership and access to other national resources is real and we must confront this.

Within the current constitutional dispensation, it only needs a rogue president to turn the country into a failed state. Our history is so fresh on this and from the current do-or-die attitude by those pushing for the top seat; clearly having shown that they deeply hold onto the winner-take-it all principle, it will be suicidal to stick to the presidential system.

A presidential system is well suited for countries with very strong institutions that provide leadership in many fronts and checks and balances on the excesses of the Executive.

While we are a unique country, we need to implement what an evaluation of the implementation of the constitution has shown us so far, and also look at the political systems in the UK, India, South Africa, Finland just to name but a few.

The writer is the Head of Media Development and Strategy, the Media Council of Kenya

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