The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has been officially launched and the journey of constitutional reform has begun.The drafters of the document have tried their best to fulfil their mandate and had a precursor to rely on, the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC), led by ac-claimed doyen of constitutionalism, Prof Yash Pal Ghai, which charted the path to the 2010 Constitution.
However, CKRC’s work that culminated in the historic Bomas of Kenya conference in 2003 was adulterated by the political elite at the eleventh hour.Constitutionalism and legislation since the Lancaster House conferences that gave birth to the independence constitution through the tumultuous “second liberation”, culminating in the 2010 Constitution, makes for insightful reflection.
One thing stands out. The political class has been the biggest impediment to the attain-ment of the ideals of constitutionalism. Our current constitution, which is up for review following the BBI bulletin, is one of the most progressive charters in the world.I spoke to the CKRC Secretary, Prof PLO Lumumba shortly after its promulgation and it was his view that our new constitution was a “mongrel”, compared to other countries’.
He considered the number of counties under devolution too large and queried the structure of the Executive, which in his inter-pretation of the BBI proposals, he now feels resembles a “serpent”. The thrust of the 2010 Constitution was de-centralisation of power and distribution of re-sources to the grassroots through devolution fulfilled with 47 counties that have become a welcome permanent feature on the political and socio-economic landscape.
Considering Kenya’s ethnic, geographical and political diversity and the attendant ben-efits of devolution realised over the last seven years, the number of counties might not be too many after all.Although the 2010 Constitution was good, it was a political compromise. It has defects that haunt us to date perpetuated by a toxic and immature political elite. They have failed to submit to the values of democracy and constitutionalism.
Citizens, captured by these political elite and ethnic lords, are to blame too. A people get the government they deserve, argues constitutional lawyer, Prof Makau Mutua, as they continue to vote for the worst among us.Responsible citizenship requires the cultivation of a responsive constitutional culture rooted in integrity, justice, human dignity, just rule of law, moral probity and authority.
The people and the political elite must breathe a new life into the 2010 Constitu-tion by entrenching key proposals in the BBI report as the national conversation kicks off. However, the people must have the final say. Notable proposals include 15-35 per cent increase in allocation of revenue to counties and 50-50 gender representation in the Senate, while retaining Women Reps in the National Assembly, and economic stimulus to youth, women and economic groups.
For good governance, expansion of the Executive to include a Prime Minister and two Deputies is an opportunity to enhance much-needed ethnic inclusion, national cohesion and reconciliation. Experts have established that “elite cohesion is more important than ethnicity to political stability.”The Chapter on Leadership and Integrity should be strengthened to make it easy to sanction/impeach the President.
Wananchi must defend and monitor our constitutional gains and ensure full realisation of its review and implementation cap-tured in the BBI bulletin incorporating expert information and knowledge.