The evolution of parliamentary sovereignty in kenya

It is an interesting time as far as the institutions of governance in Kenya are concerned. The country is seeing the entrenchment of parliamentary sovereignty. Real power in the country is slowing but surely shifting from the executive to the legislature. Kudos to KBC and the parliamentary authorities for allow this to happen.

I am of the humble opinion that democracy is meaningless without credible de facto (as opposed to de jure) mechanisms for horizontal accountability. Elections (vertical accountability) take place only every five years, and even then votes, in most places, are oftentimes easily bought with bags of maize and sugar. The real game remains restricted among the political elite.

Democracy is only stable and productive to the extent that elites can check each other and agree to a modus vivendi. That is how democracy emerged in post civil war England. That is how it has been sustained in most of the West (even during periods of limited suffrage). And that is how it will take hold in Africa.

The trick is to end the one-man-show syndrome that has characterized African politics for decades. Kenya is making that crucial transition as power sips from Ikulu to Bunge and from Harambee Avenue to Parliament Road (more on the causes soon).

Let’s not kid ourselves that horizontal accountability equals democracy. It is not. But my contention is that it is better simply because the tyranny of 210 is, to me, definitely more palatable than the tyranny of 1.

corruption in Kenya

People who swindle government “should not be alive.” Those are President Kibaki’s own words, the strongest statement yet in a season rocked with one corruption scandal after another. The president has already lost two cabinet ministers over corruption. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is believed to be investigating up to four other ministries.

al-bashir and the ugly truth

August 27th was the day Kenyans founded their second republic. Having woken up early to watch the festivities on tv I was rather surprised to see Sudan’s president Bashir ushered onto the dais by tourism minister Najib Balala. Subsequently members of parliament, the government and Kenya’s civil society started pointing fingers and expressing dismay over the decision to invite the genocidaire president. The international community – through the UNSC – also condemned the decision to host al-Bashir, a man wanted by the ICC for the most heinous crime under international law: genocide.

Kenya’s Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula defended the decision citing regional security concerns. I must admit that I sort of bought his story. Even Southern Sudan’s envoy in Nairobi – speaking with Jeff Koinange on K24’s Capital Talk – seemed to buy Mr. Wetangula’s assertion that the realities of maintaining peace in the region demanded that al-Bashir not be isolated. Like the envoy I am hopeful that Nairobi will get concessions from Khartoum with regard to the implementation of the CPA, most crucially on the holding of the secession referendum scheduled for early January 2011.

That said, president Bashir should not be allowed to get away with the murder of more than 200,000 Darfuris. He may have considerable leverage now by threatening to reignite violence in Southern Sudan but this is a card that he can only play for so long.

3% growth is a recession, Mr. President

Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, said today in his Madaraka Day address that things were not as bad as they seem to be for most Kenyans. He assured Kenyans that the grand coalition government was intact and operating smoothly (Mr. Kibaki mistakes most Kenyans for ignorant Martians, I guess) and to buttress his point reminded the country that Kenya’s economy would grow by 3% in the year 2009, up from last year’s projection of 1.7%. Mr. Kibaki also added that his government was in the process of looking into how to create 300, 000 jobs in an effort to arrest Kenya’s crazy unemployment figures.

Like most of the President’s speeches of late, his Madaraka day address seemed like an exercise in speculation and the voicing of half-thought-out wishes.

The coalition government is ineffectual, expensive and divided. 3% growth in a country where income per capita is less than US $2000 is a recession. And about the 300,000 new jobs, I would bet a cow that the president either misread what was in his speech or it was a clerical error – like the one at the treasury that nearly cost Kenyan tax payers KSHS. 10 b – or the president just felt like telling us what he wished was the case.

Kenya is 46 this year. Most Kenyans are lucky if they live to be 46.