By Joy Mdivo
The new Constitution has been developed in a spirit of "for Kenyans by Kenyans". Now that it is in force, how much of it will benefit Kenyans will be the true test of the success of our efforts as the Kenyans responsible for the ushering in of this new Constitution.
In 1963 during the Lancaster process, Kenyans were represented by the elite of the day. They brought the different concerns that ruled the day, and they were able to have a document negotiated to suit all of us. Surprisingly under the KANU regime all this was bastardized and we were left with a constitution designed by the ruling class for their own benefit. This made it impossible for a level playing field to be achieved in all spheres of life, politically, socially, economically, culturally; the perfect breeding ground for all manner of ills to thrive.
The New Constitution in spirit has changed most of that, and its similarity to the 1963 document on many issues is notable. One major similarity is the notion that some form of regional autonomy, to ensure that people had a say in their region's progress and governance. The new County system will address this to a certain extent, although the notion of autonomy is clearly ruled out by the size of the counties, too small to be viable on their own. We no longer have the "Majimbo" of 1963.
How do we translate the spirit embodied in Uhuru Gardens all those years ago when our flag was raised for the first time, and bring it to today? The new Constitution has wonderful provisions for every citizen. The implementation of the Constitution right now is at the Institutional Level. However, it is necessary for this to be extended back to Kenya's citizens. The number of times you hear "Tunaiomba Serikali iingilie kati" tells you, for the majority of Kenyans, change is still something that the Government ought to effect. None sees it as their personal responsibility, which is given to the people by educating them on what is expected of them. Many Kenyans voted for a new Constitution, few still understand what is in it.
It is time the Middle class of Kenya woke up from their stupor. The power game in Kenya has been played mostly between the Super-Rich ruling class manipulating the very poor masses. The formula is "POLITICS = MONEY + NUMBERS. Therefore, those of us in the middle class feel we have neither the ability nor inclination to bother with politics. The middle class has intellect. We waste it being part of "Think Tanks" or "Strategic Teams". Time has come for us to take the fight to the Ruling Class turf. The campaign by President Obama was successful because the working class took it upon themselves to set the agenda. Why not us? Why do we help people of questionable credentials in their quest for public office? Individuals whose track record in their occupations is less than mediocre, how are they able to suddenly develop the policies to govern us? Why are we satisfied to have gross incompetence be the trademark of our generation?
Nationhood is promoted if people believe they have a real stake in the country. Right now, most people are trying their best just to stay alive. Civil Society sets the tone for the legislative agenda by holding endless workshops and seminars whilst wananchi are oblivious. It is time the real co-relation between governance and their daily life was made apparent. Until now this means "vote for me and the road will be tarmacked." We must evaluate candidates based on track record, not future promises. That is why we buy insurance; the promise of safety "just-in-case".
Up until this point in our Nation's history, the common thread has been one of treachery, deception, betrayal, cunning, stealth and corruption. Political parties are some of the most secretive organisations, whose workings are a mystery even to those in them. Leaders make the most promises, and break them at will and whim. Gentlemen's agreements mean nothing; back stabbing is the order of the day. (Remember the infamous Kibaki-Raila MoU?) This has percolated to society, even Sacco elections are marked with such intrigue, it is comical. Once one is successful, then they do their best to reap the whirlwind. Impunity goes all the way to the Mama Mboga, who overcharges you simply because you "look like money", or a matatu tout who doubles the fare because it has started to rain! Kenyans have bought the lie, that power is the only means to get and safeguard wealth. That is why groups like Mungiki thrive, they gain power by terrorism, and use that power to extort.
Someone needs to press control-alt-delete, and reboot this Nation's psyche.
The leader must be redefined as a servant, not a king. The leader must be seen on a regular basis actually rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in it. Now that we have leadership all the way from the county assembly, we can start showing good governance from our local level, and capillary action will see it ascend to the top. The participation of the citizen has to be not only at the stage of voting, but also in the contribution of ideas and expertise. Executive Committees offer a great opportunity to do this. With the introduction a few years ago of performance contracts, consequences must follow dismal showings. Accountability must be a verb, not a noun in Kenyan vocabulary.
Change does not come from the Constitution as a document. Indeed the document we have has grave shortcomings, oversights, and overkill. Real change will come from Kenyans themselves having a complete change in attitude. A paradigm shift that will see us reject the notion of mediocrity from our own dealings, and translate this higher standard to leadership. We must each stand up to be counted, as our National Anthem so aptly puts it
"Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our Nation together
And the glory of Kenya the fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving!"
Get more of Joy's Musings at joymdivo.blogspot.com