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We have fallen short of ideals of the Constitution

By Kennedy Buhere
Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
Deputy President Ruto, President Uhuru and Raila Odinga during BBI Report launch. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Kenyans are going through a very challenging period as they contend with an intricate political situation compounded by harsh economic conditions.

It is now almost certain that there will be a referendum before the end of the year after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) envisaged reforms are validated.

Kenya is at a crossroads occasioned by highly divisive politics within a convoluted socio-economic environment that needs to be given adequate attention as a collective national duty.

To effectively manage this broad spectrum of challenges requires a fresh commitment to the letter and spirit of the Constitution as an antidote to the venom that continues to poison the country.

As one of the most politically dynamic and influential countries in Africa, Kenya has experienced its fair share of both great heights and tragic depths stretching back to the independence era shaped by two characteristics – ethnicity and political polarisation.

Hailed globally as a “success story” in the development arena in the 1970s up to the early 1980s, Kenya has achieved remarkable democratic feats, notably the Constitution of 2010 that devolved power and ended the “imperial presidency”. 

Conversely, the country has also earned notoriety for evils such as corruption and growing economic and social inequalities.

Polarisation by the political class erodes the focus and gains of the constitutional dispensation, as witnessed every election cycle.

Wananchi, therefore, have the obligation to defend the gains attained through the 2010 Constitution and ensure its full implementation and review as entailed in the BBI process.

Incidentally, a book that attempts to explain Kenya’s socio-economic situation is being launched today.  

The Oxford Handbook of Kenyan Politics that comprehensively captures the complex Kenyan story is co-edited by renowned scholars Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Karuti Kanyinga. 

 The book provides an insightful overview of Kenyan history from 1930 to date.

Its 50 chapters cover the colonial era, ethnicity, the Constitution, land politics, devolution, foreign aid, civil society, human rights, the International Criminal Court, China’s influence, economic policy, electoral violence and mobile phone technology.

Perhaps the authors’ most enduring conclusion that should be of significant interest to wananchi, political players, the BBI team and its experts is the finding that “elite cohesion is more important than ethnicity to political stability.”

They argue that while the role of ethnicity is overstated, class (elite cohesion) is much more important than commonly thought. “…while ethnicity clearly shapes how people think and vote, it is the degree of elite cohesion that determines whether the country is politically stable or not”.

The dilemma facing Kenya today is the threat of impunity that poses a challenge to the values of the Constitution. 

Kenyans and the institutions mandated to implement it must reclaim their role in directing the latest reform agenda.

Responsible citizenship requires the cultivation of a responsive constitutional culture rooted in integrity, justice, human dignity, the rule of law and moral probity. 

All the arms of government, civil society, and citizenry must work closely to prevent subservience to the whims of vested interests.

Disregard for this crucial duty can only facilitate the manipulation and decimation of the Constitution as the custodian of national posterity that can only perpetuate a state of degeneration.

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