I have great respect for Kenya’s retired President Moi. The man from Baringo had many faults but he deserves credit for letting go when the time came in 2002 due to a constitutionally mandated term limit. He could have pulled a fast one on Kenya like many a dictator have done on the Continent even in the post-1989 era of pretend democratization. That said, his 24-year tenure was nothing to sing about. Kenya’s per capita income declined under his rule. The 1992 and 1997 election-related ethnic clashes occurred under his watch. Moi played the ethnic card more than any other Kenyan politician on record. Detention without trial was the norm for anyone who dared disagree with baba (father). Moi banned political parties in the early 1908s. In 1988 he rubbished the secret ballot and required that voters queue behind their preferred candidates. In short, Moi’s Kenya was nowhere near being a liberal democracy.
So when the former president runs around Kenya being characteristically anti-reform by campaigning against the proposed constitution and claiming that “I was not a dictator. People wanted peace” we can only sit back and ask: really Mr. Moi, really?
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.