We need sober debate on the gender clause

Friday August 19 2011

It was clear from the very beginning that implementation of the new Constitution would be a delicate process fraught with pitfalls and hurdles.

However, Kenyans, in their wisdom, decided to give the overwhelming aye to a Constitutional moment that could not be allowed to slip away.

It was under similar set of circumstances that the attainment of Independence in 1963 could not be delayed or cancelled simply because the Constitution of the time was not 100 percent perfect nor enjoyed the endorsement of each and every single Kenyan.

Once Kenyans passed the new Constitution last year, it was on the understanding that plenty of goodwill and understanding would be required towards implementation.

Thus the need for flexibility and constant dialogue on the resolution of contentious issues that were bound to come up with the delicate task of re-writing the Laws of Kenya to conform with the new dispensation.

One such contentious issue confronts us now; the tricky issue of how to achieve the minimum one-third representation of either gender in elective office.

The Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and all Kenyans as bona-fide stakeholders will be called upon to lend their collective input towards a resolution acceptable to all.

This is just one of the many hurdles that will be encountered and must be surmounted in the spirit of goodwill and patriotism.

Such problems will be solved when all come up to offer positive contributions devoid of ill-will, name-calling, crying foul and strident voices.

These moments, as they come up, must not be exploited to divide the nation by competing political interests.

They must also not be seized upon by the reactionary elements who opposed the progressive new Constitution in the first place and might still be looking for the opportunity to score cheap points.

When a people come together united for a common purpose, no valley is too wide to bridge nor any mountain too high to climb.

There were never any illusions in the first place that implementing the new Constitution would be a simple and straightforward undertaking.

Therefore there should be no surprise that puzzles such us those confronting us now would crop up often every now and then.

Together, the people must find solutions; and this will be do much easier if partisan feuds and premature election campaigns are put aside so that the common good takes precedence.

What must be understood from the outset is that not the Cabinet, Parliament, nor any other organ can take away the Constitutional guarantee that no more than two-thirds of the Members of the National Assembly and other national elective positions can be from one gender.

That is not on the table, and cannot even be contemplated without undermining the entire principles under which the new Constitution was written, ratified and promulgated.

It follows, therefore, that what is under discussion is how the threshold designed to ensure fair representation for women can be attained in good time without the introduction of unfair or impractical solutions.

Kenyans of good will work out this problem without resorting to histrionics or misrepresentation of the real issue.