The Daily Nation reports that the blasts at a “NO” rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi were caused by grenades. This confirms Kenyans’ worst fear – that the explosions were not accidents but an organized attack on those opposed to the draft constitution. One hopes that Kenyan politicians will be sober-minded as the relevant authorities investigate this incident. The last thing we need is careless finger-pointing and sabre-rattling.
I hope that the president and his prime minister will follow on their promise to bring those responsible to book. This is a potentially dangerous attack on Kenya’s young and troubled democracy. Freedom of expression is one of the key pillars of civilized society. This is an attack on every Kenyan’s freedom of expression. Those opposed to the draft constitution should be allowed to do so openly and as loudly as they can, as long as they are within the limits of the law.
Politicians all over Kenya are currently on campaign mode for or against the draft constitution. The referendum on the new document will be held on the 4th of August this year. The main sources of division in the proposed constitution include land management, devolution of power from the centre, inclusion of Kadhi’s courts to adjudicate on Muslim family law and the existence of a loophole that could allow for the legalization of abortion.
The two decade-old clamour for a new constitution in Kenya has not been an easy ride. One is reminded of the saba saba rallies from the early 1990s. Most vivid of all was the shocking image of Rev. Timothy Njoya being clobbered by armed police men. Then came the Bomas constitutional conference under the NARC Administration that produced the document that was rejected at the 2005 referendum. The current constitutional review process also seems to have acquired a lot of enemies. On the surface – and this is what the mainstream Kenyan media seems to trumpet – it appears that those who are politically opposed to the draft are wary of the massive head-start that a YES victory would grant Premier Odinga in the 2012 presidential election. I beg to differ.
Me thinks that most of the political opposition to the document are founded on distributional concerns. The new set up will take a lot of power from the centre and redistribute it to the people. This will significantly alter resource allocation processes, including the management of land. It will also render obsolete the patronage networks that we call the provincial administration. It is not a coincidence that the biggest opponents to the draft also happen to be the biggest landowners, including former President Moi, among others. Imagine this for a second: President Kibaki is on the YES team, but the treasure continues to dilly and dally with the allocation of money for civic education… how can this be?
Mutahi Ngunyi has a different, but interesting take on things. Kwendo Opanga, shares his thoughts on the same, while Mutua tackles the rather risible decision of the courts to declare the current constitution unconstitutional!
290 members of parliament. 100 Senators. Several regions and more than 70 counties. These are among the new burdens that will be added onto the load currently weighing down the Kenyan taxpayer. The draft constitution released today also proposes an executive Premier and dual citizenship.
390 elected legislators is a bit too much, if you ask me. Kenya is a country of 40 million in which only a small fraction engages in taxable economic activities. The rest are rural subsistence farmers who don’t earn taxable income and engage in the formal economy only through sales taxes. Because of this I find it too much of a burden to ask the average Kenyan worker to foot the bill for an unnecessarily bloated legislature. Kenyan MPs are among the highest paid in the world. Indeed they earn more in a year than US senators. And they don’t pay any tax!
I still haven’t read the document yet, after which I look forward to commenting on the devolution structure and the hybrid system of government it supposedly proposes.
Despite its weaknesses, I think this is a step in the right direction. Better this than being stuck with the “home guard” constitution that we currently have.