From Imperial President to King: Which Way for Kenya?

Published on 30th January 2010

Kenya's members of parliament mandated to discuss the harmonised draft constitution of the Committee of Experts have betrayed the people of Kenya, particularly the majority poor and exploited who have been struggling for a new progressive national constitution. Yesterday's reformers have now turned into opportunists and traitors and are either silent or collude with those who are manufacturing the constitution which Kenyans should reject.

Although the Parliamentary Select Committee mandated  them to discuss the harmonised draft constitution that had been improved by Kenyan people and organisations, they decided to exceed their mandate by rewriting the draft constitution, messing it in the process.

Rather than listen to Kenyans, they opted to listen to foreigners. They chopped off chapters and sections from the draft that embody Kenyan cultural values, social and economic rights as well as  wishes and aspirations of the people expressed over the decades.

From the imperial president under the present constitution, the MPs have created a King in the new constitution and claim that the majority of Kenyans want to elect their chief executive, president, directly. What they deliberately avoid to say is that while the Kenyan people want to elect all their representatives, they have never wanted to elect a King whether in the form of president or prime minister. In fact, that is why they struggled against colonialism, the Kenyatta and Moi dictatorial regimes. It is for the same reason they struggled for multiparty democracy that has now completely been undermined by the King in the form of a President.

There can never be a constitution that is so perfect that it can never require to be changed. Any constitution we shall get will in future be changed again and again to reflect the dynamism of life in Kenya and the world. Only good constitutions can last long without the need for  change.

Kenyans must have a new national constitution. I agree with the yes yes referendum that will entail voting for either the constitution with the presidential system or with a parliamentary system proposed by Kenyans based on the historical and material conditions of Kenya.

This has been arrogantly rejected by the MPs who falsely tell Kenyans that the yes yes referendum will polarise and divide Kenyans. It is as if in a democracy, and especially in a class society like Kenya, division and class struggles can be avoided.

A sense of hopelessness is now growing among progressive Kenyans. How can we justify the energy and struggles we have put for constitutional review for so long if we end up with a constitution that is worse than the present one in terms of governance ?

Maybe, when the Naivasha document eventually comes to parliament, it will be rejected by the house committee. But chances are slim indeed. Again, should it be passed by parliament then Kenyans will still have a chance to reject it at the referendum. Yet the importance of the referendum in this regard is being questioned even as the propaganda for the king – president is intensified through the media.

This brings me to the argument and the propaganda by Synovate that Kenyans want to elect their chief executive directly, and that therefore they are for the presidential system of government rather than a parliamentary system. In the first place, in both systems, the head of governments are elected directly by the people.

In the presidential system, the people elect a head of government and state called president who is not directly accountable to parliament and therefore the people. In a parliamentary system, the people elect a head of government who may be either a president or prime minister but who is not head of state and who is directly accountable to parliament and therefore the people. Under the presidential system, Kenyans will vote mainly for a rich individual while paying lip service to ideologies and political parties. Under a parliamentary system, Kenyans will vote both for political parties, ideologies and leaders of political parties. A leader of a political party that has the most votes and that forms the largest party or coalition of parties in parliament also forms the government to practice the policies they promised the people for a given period in the constitution.

The King (in the form of president) proposed by the MPs at Naivasha will be as the biblical King Saul who robbed Israelites  of their land, property and made them perpetual servants with no freedom and rights. Despite the advise of Samuel and God, the people still insisted they wanted a King. And so they were given their King. And it came to pass that they suffered for thousands of years under the rule of Kings. If therefore it is the desire of Kenyans to have a King in the place of an Imperial president, they will get their King. And the Kenyan ruling class will have the last laugh.

The president proposed by the MPs will be added more powers. He will be the head of state and head of government and will not justify whatever decisions he or she makes directly in parliament. Already Kenya is governed by powerful people and institutions that are only accountable to the president and not the people, from permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals, judges, heads of the army, police, prisons, various commissioners and commissions, ambassadors, etc. On this list will be added ministers.

The president will appoint ministers from outside parliament. These ministers will be accountable to the president who appointed them. Like permanent secretaries, the ministers will be above politics and therefore Kenyans will be ruled by the king president and civil servants who are not accountable to the people.

In a multiparty system like Kenya, ministers are appointed to implement the policies and programs of their political parties. The presidential system proposed by the MPs will render political parties useless but strengthen authoritarianism, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, social inequality and arbitrary governance.Although this  is good for the present political and economic ruling class that is united in their desire to maintain the status quo, it  is the bane of those struggling for a democratic, just, equitable and progressive system in our country. Under this system, the chances of person from the peasant and working class becoming president, nay King, is the same with that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Yes, the struggle for social and national liberation is not easy; it is long, hard and protracted. Yet it has to continue.

Mwandawiro Mghanga,

Chairperson, Social Democratic Party, Kenya.

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