Sunday, December 14, 2008




There is no doubt about it; a silent war has been on since 2003 between Parliament and the presidency. The protagonists have fought long enough for us to now discern the likely winner. The tide towards a parliamentary system of government seems to rise each time the confrontation goes public. This tide may, however, be slowed down by MPs’ failure to pay taxes on their allowances and their determination to "fix" the media.
The silent war is fanned by intellectuals who have made it to Parliament.

The average education level of MPs is on the upward trend. Intellectuals, though prone to flirting with idealism, can vigorously pursue their interests given a forum. A national political renaissance and enlightenment is also feeding the embers of this silent war. In the past, only a few regions saw the benefits of power but now every corner of the country desires power. This renaissance upped the stakes in the polls last year.

The renaissance is driven by the rising literacy rate and the media, which informs us of on goings throughout the world. Through the Media Act and ICT Act, the Government may be out to slow this enlightenment. The first victims of any enlightenment are the politicians and their misdeeds. Truthfully, any politician who can ably handle this renaissance has a bright political future.

The "silent war" is not subdued by our obsession with US President-elect Barack Obama, who will be heading a presidential system of government. This is a system US vastly improved from the UK system dominated by the class structure and the monarchy.

The co-existence of a hereditary monarchy and elected representatives, the MPs in UK, Japan and other developed countries is one the governance paradox of our times, despite calling the system constitutional monarchy.

Some argue such a mixed system gives the nation a cultural anchor, a psychic identity. Others boldly suggest that the emergence of tribal leaders in Kenya is an echo from the past, when we had kingdoms and monarchies. Was Yoweri Museveni right in reviving Ugandan Kingdoms?

Our past experiences with the presidential system have made most Kenyans believe it cannot be improved. It can only be discarded, the same way we believe that all the employees of the ECK should be "discarded".

We are quick to recommend extreme measures when we are not victims or believe we could benefit in some way. The anger and emotions generated by the presidential system could derail our efforts to improve our governance system, by moving from the extremes of the presidential system to the extremes of the parliamentary system. The writing is already on the wall.

The National Accord changed the presidency as we knew it. But signs were always on the wall long before that. IPPG was a foot on the door for MPs; they realised they had political capital to spend. They have gnawed on the presidency since then.

The failure of "banana" in the referendum and its defence of the presidential system was another step away from the presidential system.

The power of Parliament is widely dispersed among the 220 MPs. Accountability and responsibilities are equally dispersed among them. This makes the House a hard body to deal with unlike the presidency, which has a central figure. The amorphous nature of Parliament in the power tripartite demands the Executive be a countervailing force. The Judiciary ought to be the honest broker. But currently, the MPs seem to be having their way.

Most Kenyans believe the presidential powers need trimming. Few tell us who should take up the power the presidency loses and the consequences of such power transfer.

Power cannot be abolished; it can only be transferred from one entity to another. We need to review our Constitution to define power structures and the system of governance, parliamentary or presidential system, not the amorphous hybrid we currently have.