Politicians in conspiracy to defeat Constitution

Sunday February 19 2017

The National Assembly in session.  FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The National Assembly in session. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LUKOYE ATWOLI
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Anyone who has been keenly following the political circus surrounding the forthcoming elections cannot have failed to notice that there are greater, more sophisticated forces at play.

The first sign of trouble, in my view, came in the form of murmurs that elected officials expected to serve out their full five-year term, notwithstanding the fact that the constitution sets the exact date of the General Election.

These murmurs continued for some time but apparently died out after nobody else showed interest in having that conversation.

Later, politicians started a more nuanced attack on the structures responsible for carrying out the elections. After a sustained attack that was supported by both sides of our politics, the leadership of the Electoral Commission was changed about eight months to the elections.

Politicians have then kept reminding us that some authority had indicated that you cannot change the electoral authority so close to an election, perhaps implanting the idea that the team might fail to run a credible election unless they are given more time.

When the electoral commission indicated that it is possible to use the available time and organise credible elections, the anti-election forces shifted into overdrive.

They interfered with procurement of materials, messed up with some constitutional timelines, and initiated a voter registration process that has raised so many questions that the register of voters risks losing its credibility.

As a result, a slew of cases are being filed in court against the commission, inevitably throwing all planned activities out of the window. This is exactly what our political class wanted in the first place.

LOOKING FOR LOOPHOLES

Kenyans have failed to internalise the historical truth that politicians, just like children anywhere in the world, will constantly try to push boundaries and assess the consequences.

They will often be found operating on the very fringes of legally allowable behaviour, and will constantly be looking for loopholes that give them advantage over their opponents, and ultimately, over the people they purport to govern or represent. They only hold back if the consequences are unpleasant.

Our politicians have constantly moulded the law to suit their whims, and created structures that pander to their instincts. They have shown time and again that dealing with public problems is only a secondary goal of their political careers, and we the citizens have hesitated in punishing them.

This has only emboldened them to engage in more and more outrageous activities. Currently, the only force standing between the citizen and outright tyranny of this greedy class of Kenyans is the judiciary.

However, one can say with little fear of contradiction that even our post-2010 judiciary is getting seriously overwhelmed by the assault from the political class, and there are signs here and there that soon the small cracks will grow and bring the entire edifice tumbling down.

What we forget is that it is the responsibility of the citizen to hold to account those to whom we donate state authority. Indeed, the Constitution of Kenya, at Article 3, makes it the obligation of every person to “respect, uphold and defend this Constitution.”

We must not just sit there and watch the conniving political class plot to overthrow the constitution in order to benefit financially.

Unless vigilant citizens act decisively, we shall start hearing noises about the impossibility of holding the election in August, with suggestions of a December or March date being floated.

The politicians will argue that pushing the date up to March next year would not be relating to “extension of the term of the Office of the President” as envisaged in Article 255 of the Constitution, and would therefore not require a referendum to amend.

Should legislative changes fail, it is possible that the politicians will continue throwing logistical spanners in the works, making it impossible for the commission to operate and making the elections practically impossible to hold.


Atwoli is associate professor of psychiatry and dean, School of Medicine, Moi University. [email protected]