Thursday, March 25, 2010



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 24, 2010

As the debate on the new constitution lasts six days in Parliament before it moves to the next stage, let Kenyans hope that their legislators will come back to their senses and save the august house the kind of parochialism that scuttled the Naivasha and Kabete deals.

Both parties to the coalition government and their supporters would do well to realize that ordinary Kenyans, much as they would want to see a united house on this important matter, never the less, there are basic requirements that must be reflected in the new constitution if the house is keen on seeing the draft ratified by Kenyans at the referendum.

Indeed Kenyans are unanimous that Kenya must remain united as one country under one central government. However, to avoid the pitfalls of a unitary government with an all powerful president or prime minister as we have had for the last 47 years, the constitution must provide for a truly devolved government at three levels with substantive powers.

Kenyans need a federal state with autonomous regional governments to take care of special needs of each region. These regions should have their own assemblies to legislate and pass the necessary laws relevant to their needs. They need to collect taxes and manage their resources to compliment what budget allocations will come from the central government.

Below the regional assembly, Kenya must devolve political, economic and administrative power to the counties to bring services and physical development closer to the people of Kenya. This lower unit will feed into the regional body that will in turn feed into the Central government.

For devolution to function effectively, there are security and administrative duties that need not be controlled by the Central Government even though there will be overall oversight by the organs of the Central Government.

Like in the United States, we need autonomous police divisions, roads department, housing department, health services and school systems run by counties. The beauty of this devolution is that depending on individual county and regional needs and ability to afford, a county or a region can employ more staff to serve its population’s social requirements.

The new constitution must strive to include not only a strong Senate but an Upper House that is superior to the current National Assembly with powers to veto bills passed in the Lower House. It should be the only legislative house vested with powers to impeach and discipline either the President or the Prime Minister depending on which of the two Kenyans will have decided to run the government and the state.

Informed by the fact that for many years, gullible Kenyans have continued to elect untrustworthy leaders who, after being elected, disappear into the city, never heard to articulate their electorate’s needs, coupled with the fact that some have in the past not been able to provide leadership even in easy things like utilization of CDF funds, a recall clause must be included in the new constitution to allow dissatisfied constituencies to recall such MPs in mid-term due to their inability to deliver services.

Such a clause will be good for both the MP and the constituency. The MP will be under pressure to perform as her constituents will be on alert to monitor her performance in Parliament and in the constituency.

The new constitution must as a matter of fact ensure real separation of powers among the three arms of the state. Those Kenyans seeking elective office must forgo the thought of sitting in the Cabinet as part of the Executive.

The present system of appointing elected MPs to the Executive has caused untold problems to the country. Cabinet ministers who have also been constituency representatives have used their national offices to further narrow parochial village interests. The flag has become a symbol of power and a campaign tool for the sitting MP and Cabinet minister against his opponents. It has been like, when one is appointed a minister, that ministry actually becomes a tool o be used for furthering the interests of the constituency.

Appointing the Cabinet from among the qualified technocrats will give the Executive the necessary national outlook it badly needs now. Devoid of village politics, the future Cabinet will unite Kenyans more than the present quarrelsome and divisive Cabinet best known for perfecting ethnic alliances and horse trading on the floor of the house.

Finally, now that we will have a regional government and the counties with their own devolved security and administrative units, the last thing that Kenyans will need is a continuation of the colonial relic called the Provincial Administration.

With the Administration police either abolished or merged with the regular police, there will be no need for a chief, a DO or a Provincial Commissioner. The regional governor and the County CEO will be more responsive to the needs of Kenyans much better than the current oppressive and trigger happy system more known for causing misery in the villages than helping the peasants of Kenya.