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Kalonzo wrong to suggest we go back to president being an MP

Monday June 24 2019

By FELIX OKUMU

Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is wrong to suggest that the President should also serve as a legislator.

For a democracy to work, there must be certain safeguards, commonly known as the tenets of democracy, among them constitutionalism, individual and civil liberties, media freedom, universal adult suffrage, protection of human rights, rule of law and, most importantly, separation of powers.

Separation of powers, or ‘trias politica’, was originally coined in the 18th Century by Charles de Montesquieu in his work published in 1748, The Spirit of the Laws, as a principle of democratic governance.

POLITICAL AUTHORITY

It holds that the political authority of a state should be divided into three distinct arms: namely, the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, and the division of government responsibilities among the three in a manner that limits each branch from exercising the core functions of the other(s).

As a result, the legislative branch is responsible for enacting laws and appropriating the money necessary for government operations while the judicial arm interprets the Constitution and other laws enacted by the Legislature, leaving the Executive with the responsibility of implementing the law and administering public policy.

Separation of powers is a good thing for Kenya since it provides for checks and balances between the three arms, controls duplication of government functions and roles and, above all, that leaves no room for abuse of power and authority by the President.

Mr Musyoka’s suggestion, therefore, that the presidential aspirants be allowed to contest parliamentary seats should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

DEMOCRATIC GAINS

Should the former VP’s proposal see the light of day, it will expose the Legislature to manipulation by the Executive and reverse the democratic gains made so far. If anything, a president serving in Parliament will add no value as it will lead to duplication of roles.

Again, the President could easily conspire with fellow MPs to undermine judicial independence, thus throwing the rule of law under the bus.

Lastly, the Wiper party leader’s wish will take us back to the dark days when the President could just wake up one day and order that somebody be detained before or without trial. And can you imagine how difficult it would be to impeach a President who is also a sitting MP?

The Committee of Experts that was headed by Dr Nzamba Kitonga, who drafted the current Constitution, were right on the form of government they prescribed for Kenya, considering the aspirations and wishes of Kenyans, chief among them being that they wanted the country to be a true democracy.

Felix Okumu, political science student, University of Nairobi. [email protected]