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2010 Constitution gave Kenya a major recalibration

By Gathu Kaara
Monday, August 24th, 2020
Cash. Photo/File
In summary

Kenya finally managed to enact a new Constitution in 2010 after years of great agitation, turmoil, and negotiations.

A new Constitution was seen as the magic wand that would do away with years of bad governance, and cure the country of all that was ailing it.

The jury is still out on how effective it has been in achieving the lofty expectations of the ecstatic Kenyans who cheered its launch ten years ago.

There can be no doubt, however, that the 2010 Constitution gave Kenya a major reset, and recalibrated, for the better, the way the country does business in many ways.

One of the biggest reforms that was brought by the 2010 was devolution, creating counties as the nodes around which the country’s economic life and development will be organized. The benefits of counties have been very many.

Money has been devolved from the centre, Nairobi, from where for decades, the whole country used to come to struggle to get a hearing about their local problems.

For long, most areas in the country were ignored, especially regions deemed “hostile” to the ruling regime.

There is a need to strengthen counties. Two areas are critical. The first is oversight over funds, and second is disbursement of more resources.

Counties have become centres of graft, so much so that in many cases, the promise of devolution has been derailed.

But the centre continues to hold back too much money, starving counties of the funds they need to undertake the 14 key functions that were devolved.

The 2010 Constitution brought in independent offices like the Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Justice, and Auditor General.

These have brought a new way of doing things in Kenya. Gone are the dark days when the Executive was able to get its way through a phone call to these now independent offices, resulting in all manner of injustices against Kenyans.

The Constitution also ushered in 16 independent commissions. It is now clear that these are too many. Some have done very well, and have justified their existence. 

Unfortunately, there are those whose impact is yet to be felt. They are invisible even as they continue expending taxpayers money.

They need to be rationalized. Some should be closed and others merged.

There are some provisions in the 2010 Constitution that need rethinking. The two-thirds gender rule is clearly a non-starter.

After 10 years of all manner of attempts to get this enacted, there has been zero progress.

It is clear that this provision will never be enacted. The financial implications of nominating literally thousands of members of the female gender into all public institutions to fill this quota, as well as the upheaval and disruption this will cause across the entire body politic makes it highly unlikely this will ever be achieved.

It’s time to look for other ways of empowering women to increase their representation and have a louder voice at all tables.

The other area where the 2010 Constitution has completely flopped is in fighting corruption.

It was assumed with all the independent commissions and offices which were well funded and technically proficient, the battle against corruption would at long last, start making real progress. 

However, if anything, the corruption lords seem to be even more emboldened, and all these independent commissions and offices have been completely unable to stem the tide.

The battle against corruption needs to be rethought. An evaluation undertaken to find out why the provisions of the Constitution have been rendered powerless by this monster, and what can be done to strengthen them to achieve this goal.

There is an ongoing initiative to recalibrate the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

It is unlikely that when this moment passes, the country will have the appetite or stomach for another revision of the Constitution anytime soon, especially because any review of a constitution is a very divisive and disruptive affair.

This would be a good time to ensure all these areas are looked at afresh and, if necessary, recalibrated to make them more effective. [email protected]

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