all systems go for kenyan referendum

Kenyans have the chance to vote in a new constitution come August 4th. The referendum vote has created a divide in Kenyan society, pitting clerics  and politicians allied to William Ruto against Kenya’s wider political establishment. Kenya’s quasi-dyarchy fully backs the new document. The church opposes the document on the grounds that it allows for abortion and disproportionately favors Muslims by providing for Kadhi’s courts. William Ruto and his allies do not like the document because it will perpetuate the centralization of land management, something that is dear to the hearts of most of their constituents.

The new document is not perfect. But it’s infinitely better than the colonial constitution that we have had since independence. For one it provides for separation of powers. The president and his cabinet will no longer be members of parliament. It also gives parliament more teeth. The provision to channel funds to local governments is a brilliant idea. Corruption will make a dent on the funds, no doubt, but local elections should attenuate the effects of graft. I only hope that county governments will be allowed to compete with each other and experiment with policy.

If I were to make improvements to the document I would provide greater autonomy to major towns and cities. I would also stagger elections so that not all parliamentary elections coincide with presidential elections. I would have given supreme court judges lifetime security of tenure. Lastly, I would have granted Mr. Ruto his wish and decentralized the management of land – but set national minimum requirements with regard to land use and taxation, especially of idle land.