Opinion

Review of supreme law may not be panacea for all our problems

Review of supreme law may not be panacea for all our problems

In Summary

  • Nine years ago, their leaders assured them that a new constitution would be the panacea for all the ills afflicting them.
  • It would make a lot of sense if these initiatives were sifted and the best of the proposals combined in one document that Kenyans can support or oppose.

Under normal circumstances, Kenya in its parlous economic state can barely afford another referendum, but it will happen all the same.

Unfortunately, we are busy holding several different monologues at once, and no one is listening to anyone else.

Some people say we need to overhaul the Constitution because it is not working well for us. Others believe it is a great document which only requires a little tweaking, thus precluding a referendum.

A third group believes that any attempt to tamper with the supreme law is a mere ruse to thwart their ambitions.

So far, three efforts have been hatched to do the job. The one most Kenyans know anything about so far is Dr Ekuru Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo Initiative, a populist document that contains many attractive features, but which suffers acute weaknesses in vision.

With the first hurdle overcome – that of collecting at least a million signatures – Kenyans were enthusiastic.

They were particularly happy about the proposals to drastically reduce representation in Parliament and to give ward representatives control over the money disbursed to the counties.

Members in both houses of Parliament were not impressed. Nor were the governors.

HURDLES

As a result, Punguza Mizigo has found it impossible to surmount the second barrier.

Although MCAs initially salivated over all the millions they would control, they reckoned without the views of the “patrons of change” who could not stomach the idea of any other outfit stealing the thunder from their own preconceived outcomes.

Neither Jubilee nor ODM care much for Punguza Mizigo, and they have worked hard to ensure it is rejected.

So far, only Uasin Gishu has endorsed it. And short of a miracle, the Punguza Mizigo (Constitution of Kenya Amendment) Bill, 2019, is highly unlikely to gain the support of the 25 county assemblies it requires.

Another hurdle on its way is by the new-fangled County Assemblies Forum, which has purportedly banned further debate on the bill until October 15, when all the assemblies will vote on it.

Whether this ban holds any water is debatable, for it is not even clear whether it is lawful.

BUILDING BRIDGES

It looks like poor Aukot has become a modern-day Sisyphus, forever rolling a huge boulder up a hill to the top, only for it to come crashing down. Whether he deserves this kind of punishment is another issue altogether.

The main reason why this bill has gained scant respect is the Building Bridges Initiative.

The brainchild of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga, the BBI, whose details have not been released, except that its main provisions seem to have been leaked to a select few, is mainly concerned with changing the structure of government from a presidential to a parliamentary system.

Should that be the case, not only will it receive warm approval from a section of legislators and tough opposition from another section, it will also easily bury any other proposals.

That the BBI task force has not yet released its report means that no intelligent discourse can take place.

ANTIDOTE

But judging from the eminence of the leaders who have already endorsed it and those opposed to it, the battle ahead will be bruising.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are backing the initiative, while Deputy President William Ruto and his supporters do not want anything to do with a referendum.

But since it looks like a constitutional referendum is inevitable because some changes cannot be made through amendments, Kenyans are in for very interesting times.

Many of them cannot see what the brouhaha is all about. Nine years ago, their leaders assured them that a new constitution would be the panacea for all the ills afflicting them.

They were told that it would be the antidote to exclusion, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, insecurity, poverty, hunger, disease and chicanery at the ballot.

They were told that they stood to eat the fruits of devolution when development is brought to their doorstep. They believed all this and said yes.

BEST PROPOSALS

But almost a decade later, the lives of Kenyans have not changed one little bit.

In fact, many believe they are worse off than they have ever been, though they keep hearing about mind-boggling figures stolen by those they elected into office in the naïve belief that they can finally escape the poverty trap.

Now, again, they are being told they should change the government structure to be ruled by a prime minister and three deputies instead of a president and a deputy, as if this will ever reduce their misery.

Pretty soon, they will be asked to vote in another referendum and they will do so, though few will have any idea what they are voting for.

It would make a lot of sense if these initiatives, including Governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s malnourished baby, Ugatuzi, were sifted and the best of the proposals combined in one document that Kenyans can support or oppose.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor;