By David Ochwangi
The recent headline articles in the Daily Nation which called attention to parts of the new constitution that decree, require, compel or whatever description fits your fancy, Kenyans to vote for a certain quota of female representatives to Parliament and local assemblies illuminate a fundamental flaw those of us who opposed the constitution were concerned about. Kenya’s new constitution has been hyped as the BEST in the world by those who campaigned for it and while all that is perfectly OK depending on who you talk to, the truth is, this new constitution was founded on quick sand and the more we now learn the truth, the harder it will be believe anything the state or her stewards try to pass in the future.
It clearly has its shortcomings, some of them so severe that absolute care must be taken so that it does not become an avenue upon which the country self-destructive, no constitution on earth is perfect and I am cognizant of this fact but when you have one like Kenya’s with sections which blatantly violate, impugn and contradict itself on the most fundamental provisions of which it purports to protect and frustrates the very purpose for which we sought a new constitution, i.e. self-governance through the sovereignty of “we the people”, then we are losing our existential compass as a nation.
It appears that we are finally coming to terms with the fact that the new constitution is wrought with blunders, some of which if not quickly addressed, would do irreparable harm to the democratic advances Kenya has made since independence. It isn’t so much that the document was passed on false promises such as what was told to the Chiefs, District Officers, District Commissioners and Provincial Commissioners that they will keep their jobs in the new Kenya or Members of Parliament who are now disillusioned at the realization that they too, like the rest of us, MUST pay taxes notwithstanding repeated assurances from the powers that be that they will not pay taxes and several other fallacies contained in the document, far from it.
I fully understand the need and desire to advance and empower women in our society and frankly I think they make better leaders, after all they are the majority and if you ask me, male leaders have for the most part let us down. That being said, I don’t think this is the proper way to accomplish that, NO! This provision undercuts the integrity of the constitution; it renders the document gratuitously inconsistent and convoluted.
The framers of the constitution made an indelible error in judgment with respect to this provision among others and it will be an even greater tragedy if we don’t fix it now. Admittedly, during the campaign to pass it, Kenya’s leaders conceded to the fact that the document in its current form, then just a draft, was far from perfect and that Kenyans should pass it first and question or amend it later; the argument made at the time was that there wasn’t enough time to correct inherent mistakes before the scheduled vote but now it appears the chicken are coming home to roost and I want to see the same leaders who rushed to pass this document to also be at the forefront of fixing it with equal zeal.
The framers didn’t even attempt to mitigate the erosion this idea would have on democracy much less provide for enforcement mechanism; who decides which ward/location, county, constituency must vote for a woman and at what election cycle for example? I say let the people themselves decide.
These sections, along with others yet to be discussed and the contemplated drafts designed to implement local governments’ formation, elections and functions make a complete mockery of the supremacy of “we the people” prominently promised in the new document in so far as it subverts the will of the people to elect their representatives.
The principle of the people’s sovereignty as unambiguously spelled in the constitution is supposed to be non-negotiable and yet the same document severely compromises that which it purports to promote. A paradox I am struggling to reconcile a constitution which at the outset claims to revert power and governance to the people but in reality undermines that very sovereignty by placing unreasonable and unrealistic caveats, demands and prescriptions to the people as to whom they MUST elect based on gender. Which is which? We cannot have it BOTH WAYS folks; it is one or the other democracy or forced representation-pick one.
As far as I am concerned, there cannot be a better election formula to substitute the will of the people or their right to democratically elect their representatives than the ballot box and to pretend otherwise is not only delusional but also grossly ill-advised. These attempts to subvert the people’s will as this constitution surreptitiously does must be rejected otherwise this whole constitution risks being rendered hollow. We must respect that which we have promised the nation, observe common sense, preserve our sensibilities as a nation, be consistent in form, substance and purpose otherwise we are going round in circles and wasting valuable time and resources healing self-inflicted wounds.
We need to develop and grow competitive democracy where competent and qualified candidates vie for elective office and win elections on account of their ideas and leadership-not this retrogressive cockamamie notion that a country can only advance by denigrating the people’s sovereignty in the name of a badly crafted constitution. Folks, I say let’s speak up and let’s fix this glaring anomaly in this document now.