Need to amend the Kenyan constitution for the sake of peace
By Maurice N. Amutabi
Kenya is in a state of anxiety and tension, not because of the forthcoming March 4, 2013 elections but because of where the country will be next year. Pundits and analysts are forecasting a gloomy political future, one in which a repeat of the events of 2007 and 2008 is not off the horizon. Many analysts blame this state of affairs on the Kenya’s new constitution. The constitution was debated and passed amidst a lot of suspicion and tension, with the intention of frustrating one person. The search for pre-election pacts and MoUs reveals that the political actors have no chips to share out.
The new constitution is revealing the dangers of winner takes all type of democracy, where the winner walks away with the cake to the chagrin of others, and where losers are forced to go home empty handed. A winner takes all political dispensation is a recipe for turmoil, in Africa, where we are ‘toddlers’ in democratic practice. The Bomas Draft and the 2006 Draft before the Naivasha amendments had adequate chips to share. The drafts had five elective positions – president, vice president, prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. Today, the five top aspirants – Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto could easily craft a safe and peaceful combination under a broadened government. Parliament should amend the constitution to accommodate this scenario.
The 2010 constitution threatens to create many political outcasts who will not be MPs or Senators after the elections and are likely to make the life of whoever is elected president very hard. There will be about 10 prominent politicians floating around dangerously without any duties. They will be in campaign mood immediately after the results are announced. This is not only dangerous for Kenya, but a total waste of human resources. Many Kenyans would like to see Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, Mutava Moses Wetangula, Eugene Wamalwa back in some leadership position come next year. They would hate to see such great talents waiting out in the cold for five years up to 2017. But sharing positions is not the only problem.
The greatest problem is the confusion that is emerging in the membership in political parties. There are reports that names of some people are appearing in more two political parties, without their consent and knowledge. Some political parties have used dubious and underhand methods to register members. Some names have been acquired from Mpesa outlets while others have been taken from institutions. What is worse is that candidates for some positions are required to have at least 1,000 signatures (MPs), while others demand at least 2,000 (for those seeking to be governors and senators). Presidential candidates must have at least 2,000 signatures from at least 25 counties.
There is a danger that some people may be barred from running on technicalities that are not of their own making, especially if they present members who have already been presented by other parties. Since the time between presentation of nomination papers and elections is very short, there may not be enough time to verify the true signatures and forged ones. It is for this reason that there is need for a more simplified and practical method should be established. The other bigger problem that threatens the country is the clause requiring that at least 30% of either gender be represented in parliament and county assemblies. Of course some mischievous lawyers are already suggesting that the clause does not say that the representatives of either gender must be 30% women or men, but that what matters is that either gender is represented, meaning that men can represent women and vice versa. One would wish that things were straightforward as this would appear. Such interpretation belongs to drunkards, and efforts must be made to address this dilemma. The most obvious solution is to allow nomination of additional women to fill up the 30%., or do away with the clause altogether. There should be a solution before it is too late.
Prof. Amutabi is the Director of Research at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa