By Jerry Okungu
The contradictions in Kenyan politics have refused to go away. Today our MPs can pass a motion in Parliament and oppose it in other forums tomorrow! They need a tight constitution like the one we are proposing to lock them in and keep them in check.
Take the present scenario where 27 MPs were among the more than 150 MPs who unanimously voted yes in Parliament just the other week for the new constitution but are now beating drums against it. They have teamed up with fundamentalist Christian clergy to scuttle the process. In their misreading of the draft, they have chosen to peddle falsehoods to Kenyans this constitution is socialist, for abortion and favours Muslims.
However, Kenyans will endorse this constitution because for the first time in independent Kenya, MPs and other constitutional office holders will pay their taxes. Another thing, MPs will not have the power to increase their salaries whenever they want. That responsibility will belong to a separate independent body. Kenyans will have an opportunity to recall their MP in mid-term if they feel that his performance has been dismal inside and outside Parliament. In fact they will recall him should he misuse their constituency development fund (CDF) allocations or even attempt to employ his relatives and cronies to manage our CDF funds.
This constitution has provided for the management of land through a National Land Commission to stop the practice of land grabbing by influential elite. It therefore places land in the category of oil deposits, waters of Lake Victoria, River Tana and Mau Forest Water Tower for the common good of all Kenyans. This constitution has guaranteed all Kenyans equitable resource distribution so that national resources will be devolved to the 47 autonomous counties. Kenyans will therefore look up to our counties rather than the central government to build their roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.
Looking at this proposed constitution, there are so many good clauses such that if Kenya adopts it, it will allay the fears of many East African states on land matters. Since it is going to eradicate land grabbing in Kenya, Tanzanians should find it a good law that will equally reassure them that when the borders are open on July 1, 2010, land grabbers will flood their country.
Other clauses that should please the rest of East Africans are recall clauses, taxation for MPs and judges and an independent salaries commission that regulates all public service salaries. On devolution, Kenya adopting the county system will go along way in synchronising its governance systems with Uganda in the hope that other partner states will also streamline their governance structures the same way.
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, Kenyans have seen a wayward Parliament and rogue Executives getting away with murder from time to time. One assumes that the same has been the case in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
On the home front; through the impending referendum, Kenyans will know the real reformists and pretenders to the reform agenda.
In a way the contest during the referendum will shape the politics of Kenya 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 do, 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 decided to oppose this constitution. It is good for him to remember that he has taken a stand against Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the very people who defeated him in 2002 general elections. For those clergy who are banking on their church followers to scuttle the constitution because of abortion and Kadhiâ€™s courts, let them know that they are facing imminent embarrassment at the polls.
Christians like me, and we are many, donâ€™t vote with our souls. We vote with our conscience. When I enter the polling booth, I leave my faith at the door and God likes me that way because He is not interested in my politics, just my soul. For those clergy that are shouting hoarse about whether to have abortion in the constitution or not, please listen very keenly to the voices of women. 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.
Let abortion be legalised 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 and legally allowed.