Kenya could potentially be in a historical moment with talks of a referendum dominating airwaves every waking day.
Uasin Gishu’s women representative Gladys Boss Shollei just tabled a Constitutional Amendment Bill 2019 in Parliament barely a week after Dr Ekuru Aukot’s Punguza Mzigo Bill was given the green light by IEBC after a successful verification of 1.2 million signatures. While the end of these two Bills is similar, it is the means that differ by a mile. The Punguza Mzigo Bill aims to live up to its name to lighten the burden for the taxpayer by significantly reducing the number of representatives from the current 416 members to 147. The Constitutional Amendment Bill by Ms Shollei, on the other hand, proposes an increase of members from 416 to 560 to achieve the elusive representation. The country also waits with bated breath for the report from the Building Bridges Initiative, which from all indications, will also recommend a referendum.
Despite their glaring differences, a commonality emerges; development. Dr Aukot’s Bill seeks to reduce the spend on state officers’ wages and to channel the resources into social and economic development while Ms Shollei’s Bill seeks to achieve inclusive development through proper articulation of needs stemming from different interest groups and working towards finding sustainable solutions. These concerns echo the 9-Point Agenda which gave rise to the BBI and which seek to transform the country through equitable distribution of wealth.
While the proposals may be justified, they beg the question whether the current constitutional framework has been an impediment to achieving development for Kenya. While this may not be the case as we’re yet to see a flawless constitution that has been implemented to the letter, the success of it largely depends on the political will to bring laws to life, which has been lacking in Kenya. Take the gender-rule for example, while it may have been impossible to achieve it through the elective process the Executive has repeatedly passed up on opportunities to fill this gap through appointments. This isn’t a challenge that faces women in isolation as youth and persons with disability have been left in the cold enough times.
The current tug of war we’re witnessing between the Senate and the National Assembly over the Division of Revenue Bill 2019, is another manifestation of lacking political will to make devolution work. This simply translates to a violation of the constitution within which devolution is enshrined. It has become evident that even after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, we are yet to have a mind-shift from the centralized system we were accustomed to. We need to remember that the devolved system was meant to undo the historical injustices that resulted from the centralization of power and resources, excluding other regions that have since been struggling to catch up.
The constitutional amendments proposed so far may have the goodwill of Kenyans at heart but there’s a need to have a bigger discussion on the implementation of said amendments to avoid wasting resources and time into laws that won’t be brought to life.
The political motivation behind every constitutional proposal also doesn’t escape Kenyans. Several have touched on an increase in number either at the executive or legislative level guised as an effort to achieve equal representation while it could be a move to strategize for a few people’s political futures.
“I am not a senator for future senate positions. I am a senator now. We need to stop creating positions for ourselves and we have to stop postponing our development. It needs to happen now,” said Nominated Senator Dr Isaac Mwaura during a chat with Mzalendo. Could the political ilk adopt this mentality to work to inform any decision they make in their positions of leadership?