Attack on Constitution should worry Kenyans

Parliament seems to be slowly but surely returning control of Kenya’s hot-button issues to the Executive.

Monday January 11 2016

Former President Mwai Kibaki during the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, on August 27, 2010. Parliament has, however, embarked on watering down some of the constitutional safeguards designed to hold together the national fabric and guard against tyranny and impunity. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Former President Mwai Kibaki during the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, on August 27, 2010. Parliament has, however, embarked on watering down some of the constitutional safeguards designed to hold together the national fabric and guard against tyranny and impunity. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

After the disputed 2007 elections, the post-election violence, and the subsequent power-sharing political agreement between Mr Mwai Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga, it became clear that Kenya could not continue operating under the governance structure that had been in place since independence in which power was centred around the presidency.

As a result of this, the constitution-making process was re-invigorated, eventually leading to the promulgation of the new Constitution in August, 2010.

This document, among other things, devolved power to the 47 counties and created independent constitutional commissions to deal with what the Kriegler, Waki, and Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission reports call Kenya’s hot-button issues — land grievances and historical injustices, the conduct of elections, policing, distribution of resources, ethnic equality and justice, and impunity and corruption.

According to Article 10 of the Constitution, the national values and principles of governance include patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people, human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised, good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability, and sustainable development.

It is against these values that every decision made in interpreting the Constitution, policy-making, and governance must be based.

Parliament has, however, embarked on watering down some of the constitutional safeguards designed to hold together the national fabric and guard against tyranny and impunity.

ACTION REQUIRED

The National Assembly amended the law to diminish the role of the Judicial Service Commission in appointing the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice.

This provision should worry any Kenyan who remembers the events of 2007/2008, when the opposition refused to take its grievances to court simply because the courts were seen to be under the control of the incumbent.

The National Assembly reverted to the president the power to hire and fire the inspector general of police, his two deputies, and the director of the CID.

MPs have also done away with the two-thirds gender rule among the three senior-most police officers.

The National Assembly has also initiated amendments to the land laws to clip the National Land Commission’s mandate and give the recruitment of the commissioners to the Public Service Commission, a sister independent commission.

A similar preposition was made with regard to the appointment of commissioners to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

REVISITING THE PAST
Parliament seems to be slowly but surely returning control of Kenya’s hot-button issues to the Executive.

MPs have totally disregarded the lessons of the past that have taught us that it is more prudent to rely on institutions than personalities.

Now more than ever before, Kenya needs strong and independent institutions to deal with the elements that threaten our national fabric such as hate speech and irresponsible utterances similar to the ones that led to the catastrophe of 2007/2008.

It appears Kenyan politicians are oblivious to the saying that those unable to catalogue the past are doomed to repeat it.

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