Thursday, July 29, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

July 30, 2010

Kenyans are going through a period of uncertainty that only their forefathers experienced half a century ago. It is a feeling that can only be compared to a couple preparing to get married or better still, preparing to get their first baby.

In strictly conservative societies, young people preparing to get married can go through mental torture r. Their families exert so much pressure on them. It heightens their desire to come out of the whole event with a measure of public approval. Among the Muslim or Asian communities, the bride is expected to be a virgin on that night. Anything short of that can be an abomination.

Is this the kind of mental anguish Kenyans must be experiencing as they wait to vote for their second constitution in 50 years?

Let us face it; the time it has taken Kenyans to write their constitution is not a short period by any standards. Time and resources have been sunk into this project in quantities beyond imagination. Children born when the constitution struggle started will vote in this referendum. Others are already mothers and fathers.

In terms of resources, US $ 200 million have gone down the drain during the same period. Many people have died, been tortured, maimed or their rights violated with impunity. Yes, this is the prize that Kenyans have had to pay in the search for this elusive document in over two decades.

Now that Kenya is about to give birth to a new constitution, what are our fears, anxieties and expectations?

What will become of the Reds and Greens if either side loses or wins the crucial vote? Will Kenya remain the same on August 5? Will the sun still rise in the East and set in the West the same day?

Will the losers accept defeat with grace? Will the winners embrace losers and accommodate them?

What of the big players in this debate? Will the Coalition partners forgive those in the cabinet that campaigned against them whether they lose or win? Will William Ruto and fellow ministers in the No camp face the same wrath the Narc ministers that campaigned against the government in 2005 faced?

Whichever way one looks at it, the results of the impending referendum will change Kenya fundamentally. One of those ways will be the political realignment. Many new alliances may emerge in readiness for the 2012 elections.

If the No side carries the day, there will be despondency, apathy and despair in many parts of the country. Politically, it will be business as usual. It will be a bold statement that Kenyans have no interest in reforms. A No verdict will be a slap on the face of all those reformists that have campaigned for change in the last 30 years.

Impunity will continue unabated. Agenda Four commissions will have been grossly undermined. Such a scenario may even call for the resignation of this government. It will be a return to the pre-2007 type of government.

Through the window will go any hopes of a devolved the government. Provinces and districts will remain intact. Police brutality will continue unabated. Land grabbing will reach new levels. Negative ethnicity will reach new highs.

Nationally, Kenyans that had hoped that devolution would offer them alternative political platforms will be disappointed. There will be no new elective positions.

As for the electorate, their hopes of recalling their MPs will be dashed forever because Parliament will never again entertain another constitution that would threaten its supremacy. The Mau Forest too will be a casualty.

However, if the Greens win, it will be a new dawn for Kenya. Mau Forest rehabilitation will go on.

Agenda Four commissions will have renewed impetus. The Kenya Anti Corruption Commission is likely to deliver following a purge in the judicial system. Several political offices will have their wings clipped.

MPs will no longer be everything to everybody. They will be restricted to making laws in Parliament. Their desire to fly the flag will be a thing of the past. Interestingly, they will not be the only elected leaders worthy of note. They will share front row seats at funerals, weddings and national days with senators and regional governors. They will lose the power to increase their salaries at will as they will be subject to a recall clause for nonperformance.

The President will not have it easier either. He will have no power to appoint or fire his deputy as that one will have been elected directly by the people. He will lose the power to appoint his cronies and relatives to the cabinet or any other public office.

With the new law coming into force, chances of enforcing Public Officers Ethics Act may just find a new impetus. Kenyans will have a chance to scrutinize their leaders before they elect them to public office.

Will Kenya be a better place to live after August 4th if the Greens have their say?

The jury is still out there.