Friday, April 9, 2010



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
April 9, 2010

Thirty MPs who unanimously voted aye in Parliament just last week for the new constitution have made a sharp about turn. Now they are beating drum against the new constitution that their parliament endorsed unanimously. I say unanimously because the house did not have to go for the division because the ayes had it.

The fundamentalist Christian clergy have also persisted with their reverse logic on the two issues they consider contentious, the Kadhi’s courts and abortion issue. In their misreading of the draft, they have chosen to peddle falsehoods to Kenyans in the hope that through this referendum, they may gain the credibility they lost with Kenyans in 2005 and 2007.

I wasn’t sure I needed to take a voting card this time to vote for the referendum because I had assumed it would sail through. However, now that I have seen hypocrites taking center stage to scuttle my constitution, I and my family together with my entire village, we are going to register to express our disgust at the polling booth. We are going to vote for this constitution for reasons I will shortly state here below.

We will vote yes to this constitution because for the first time in independent Kenya, our MPs and other constitutional office holders will pay their taxes just like we poor mortals.

For the first time since 1997, MPs will not have the power to increase their salaries if and when they want. That responsibility will belong to a separate independent body.

For the first time since independence, we will have an opportunity to recall our MP in mid-term if we feel that his performance in that Bunge and in our constituency has been dismal. In fact we will even recall him should he misuse our CDF allocations or even attempt to employ is relatives and cronies to manage our CDF funds.

This constitution has provided for the management of land, our most important national resource into the hands of a constitutional office so that land thieves stop having a field day with our God given natural resource. If we can control our national taxes, oil if we finally find it or even the waters of Lake Victoria, River Tana and Mau Forest Water Tower for the common good of all Kenyans, we in our village cannot see any justification for one family in Kenya to own land equal to the size of our province.

This constitution has at least on paper, guaranteed us equitable resource distribution so that national resources will be devolved to the 47 autonomous counties. We will therefore look up to our county rather than the central government to build our roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

Since 1964, this constitution has reinstated the Senate, the upper house that will check on the excesses of the National Assembly and the Executive. Without the Senate, we have seen a wayward Parliament and rogue Executives getting away with murder from time to time.

In my village, we have resolved that this contest between the opponents and proponents of the new constitution is the best thing to have happened to this country. A unanimous yes vote would be too boring for Kenyan politics. Now is the time to separate the chaff from the grain of Kenyan politics.

Now is the time to know the real reformists and pretenders to the reform agenda. Now is the time to separate the boys from the men in Kenyan politics. Let the contest begin but only on one condition; that whoever loses must lose with dignity and bow out with grace.

In a way the contest during the referendum will shape the politics of this country in more ways than one. Whichever side wins will surely win the 2012 elections because at the referendum, it will not be the clergy, the civil society or politicians that will decide. The people of Kenya will decide. And if they decide either way in 2010, chances are that they will decide the same way in 2012. They did that in 2005 and repeated the pattern in 2007.

It is good that Daniel arap Moi has made his stand clear. He and a handful of his Rift Valley MPs have taken a stand against this constitution. It is good for him to remember that he has taken a stand against Kibaki, Raila, Ngilu, Kalonzo, Musalia, Karua, Olen Ntimama, Murungi and a number of people who opposed him in 2002. If his memory is still clear, he must be remembering what happened to him.

For those clergy who think they will defeat the referendum based on their church followers, let me give them a free advice. They are facing imminent embarrassment at the polls. Christians like me, and we are many, don’t vote with our souls. We vote with our brains. When I enter the polling booth, we leave our faith at the door, vote with our conscience and when I get out, we take our Christian beliefs with us. And God likes us that way because he is not interested in our politics, just my souls.

For those clergy that are shouting horse about whether to have abortion in the constitution or not, please listen very keenly to the voices of women and Rev Timothy Njoya. The grey haired clergy have never been and will never be pregnant in their lives to understand the agony of unwanted pregnancy either through rape, incest or molestation. Because they have decided to be pro-life in this debate, I and my fellow villagers have decided to be pro-choice. Let abortion be legalized so that the rights of child mothers, raped women and abused children can be protected. Let our public hospitals carry out abortions where it is morally justified.

With those few remarks, let the contest begin!