Kenya’s constitutional movement from old to the current one has been eventful and inspiring. Five years on, much has been accomplished and much still needs to be done. Any transition requires changes in attitudes, values, practices and mindsets. Development of a new constitutional culture will also depend on whether there is genuine, collective and deliberate effort to embrace the new order.
Even with the desired political will to implement the Constitution, the complexity involved in building institutions will pose a challenge. The required changes in institutions and in systems of governance introduced by the Constitution will take time to be fully effective. This realization informed the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee decision to form a working group to audit the Constitution.
The group has produced an interim report which affirms that the Constitution has been a blessing but more needs to be done to realize its true aspirations, both in what Kenyans wanted and also in what the document articulates.
On Parliament, the report makes some accurate observations;
Under a pure presidential system such as the one adopted in the Constitution, MPs from the President‘s party or coalition are supposed to balance between two contradictory roles i.e. checking the executive in the national interest and safeguarding their coalition‘s legacy for future elections. MPs from the minority party or coalition are also supposed to support the executive in the quest for the attainment of the national interest and oversight on the national executive.
In practice, though, Parliament has carried out its business with the collective mindset of a parliamentary or mixed system of government. The majority coalition sees itself as the government side while the minority side sees itself as the opposition. The current system of government envisages Parliament working cohesively to push the legislative agenda at the national level. The practice of positioning the Majority Leader as a ―government spokesman in Parliament while seeing the minority coalition as a ―shadow cabinet is, therefore, in dissonance with the system of government in the Constitution.
The root of the problem is an entrenched bad culture spanning years but which needs to be uprooted. Kenyan Parliamentarians superiority complex is exemplified in Bills debate and appointment of various officials. The last two years have also seen Parliament go against the text and spirit of the Constitution. It does not help much when Senate and National Assembly constantly haggle over issues.
Parliament needs to embrace the principle of cooperative government and commit to its application in resolving disputes. Alternative dispute resolution procedures should be pursued and legal redress sought where all else fails. In addition, clear guidelines for determining when proposed laws affect the counties or not should be established.
For the aspirations of Kenyans presented to the Constitution to be realized, Parliamentarians in their functions need to abide by the law as presented in the Constitution. This will go a long way in making Kenya a united country.