The committee of experts charged with steering the process of giving Kenya a new constitution has come up with two contentious issues that they think should be ironed out before Kenyans can finally have a new constitution – after over 20 years of waiting. The issues are:
1) whether to have a presidential, parliamentary or hybrid system of government
2) whether the term of the current parliament should expire with the adoption of the new constitution.
To resolve these issues, the Attorney General, Amos Wako, wants Kenyans to submit their suggestions to his office. I say this is nonsense. The original idea to involve Wananchi in the writing of a new constitution was a mistake (I agreed with Moi, even back then as a high school kid) and any further involvement of “wanjiku” will remain an exercise in futility. Some of the best constitutions of the world – like the American one, for instance – were drafted by experts. Villagers in Siaya or Maragua do not care whether we have a presidential or parliamentary system. These are issues only in the heads of Kenya’s power-hungry ruling elite. All Wanjiku cares about is the number of sufurias in her kitchen. Period. Whatever system promises more sufurias she’ll be for it.
For full disclosure, I am not a fan of either PNU or ODM. President Kibaki is a living example of the excesses of an all powerful presidential system and a form of government lacking any separation of powers – the president and all members of his cabinet are also members of parliament. PNU wants to perpetuate such a system judging by what its talking heads are voicing.
That said, I think ODM’s call for a parliamentary system of government is also misguided. Kenya is a young democracy that needs stable government. Parliamentary systems, especially in fractious states like ours, are highly unstable. Look at Italy, Israel and Lebanon. They hold elections almost every few months and take forever to form governments. We need a stable and functional executive if we are going to accelerate Kenya’s economic development.
My two cents on this is that the solution lies in having a presidential system strengthened by a complete separation of powers. The president should be head of the executive and not a member of parliament. His cabinet ministers should also not be sitting members of parliament. Parliament should be independent. To acknowledge the ethnic realities of the country we need to have a two-tier legislature. The lower house should be composed of representatives from constituencies. The upper house should represent Kenya’s ethnic mix, with equal representatives from the major ethnic groups and regions. The judiciary should be independent of the executive without any compromise whatsoever. Judges should have life tenure and have their pay regulated by an independent public servants remuneration commission.
And on the second point. 2012 is close enough. Let President Kibaki serve the rest of his term and go in peace.