Need to amend the Kenyan constitution for the sake of peace in 2013 elections

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

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About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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