Three lobbies have poked holes in the statement issued on March 9, 2018 made by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), Right2Know Initiative and Uhaki Dialogue Group say the ‘handshake declaration’ between the two leaders failed to acknowledge the fact that several key provisions of the Constitution that should develop democracy, remain diluted and unimplemented.
This, they say, has compromised the independence, professionalism, and power of crucial public institutions. They said this has eroded the basis and mechanisms of implementing the principle of popular sovereignty, the enforcement of citizen’s rights, and provision of peaceful means of resolving electoral disputes.
“We note that institutions established by the Constitution central to the exercise of democracy continue to be weakened, lack of transparency and suffer from low credibility. Thereby addressing Kenyans’ demands is in effect largely inefficient and hence deep-seated social problems persist despite the rhetoric of economic growth,” said Ndung’u Wainaina, the executive director of ICPC said in a statement.
He noted that large segments of the citizenry remain alienated from decision-making and the expectation that democracy would improve material conditions by redistributing power and resources remain largely unfulfilled, and hence their persistent economic marginalisation and discrimination.
He further pointed out that many systems continue to work according to old social and political arrangements and rules centred on exclusion and control, favouring the interests of a small clique of elites.
Mr Wainaina cites the concluded devolution conference in Kakamega as having grossly failed in addressing restructuring, reordering and realigning national government ministries, departments and agencies with respect to devolution.
“The devolved system of governance requires restructuring the central government infrastructure’s bureaucratic set up and devolving the administrative, political, security and fiscal authority to the county governance system,” he said.
The groups noted that reforming the electoral system, building stronger institutions of governance and improving transparency are key to developing democracy in Kenya.
They said there is need to devolve and distribute more power to independent county governments, and strengthen checks and balances in exercising the power.
“The country should act with maturity to strengthen and insulate the independence of the Judiciary, security services and prosecutorial system, which have significantly been weakened, while equality, fair representation and citizen participation are key mechanisms of building a democratic political system,” said the lobbyist.
To deepen and consolidate democracy in Kenya, the lobbyists also called for an inclusive well-structured National Convention Assembly (NCA) whose sole agenda will be implementation of the Constitution to focus on strengthening the process of electoral democracy, ensuring strong independent professional State institutions, and democratising the State by devolving more power, resources and functions to autonomous devolved systems of government.
The Constitution should also focus on embarking on a genuine, inclusive national transitional justice process of truth, justice and reconciliation to promote peace, cohesion and rule of law, carrying out comprehensive land reforms and accessibility of land resources fairly by all citizens, and establishing a pro-people socioeconomic and service delivery regime.
“Kenya needs a common vision and programme for a united, democratic, multiethnic, non-sexist and shared prosperity country. However, we emphasise that such a vision must be based on the context and full implementation of the Constitution and not through amorphous gentlemen arrangements, which have no legal basis and are inconsistent with established constitutional order,” said Mr Wainaina.