Koigi Wa Wamwere: On Voting No

On account of the contentious issues, errors, fundamental omissions and disagreeable articles, the new constitution is not the basic law I fought for. I am glad I voted no.Though Tom Mboya had argued against the wisdom of defining “independence” to people in order not to lose support from the poorest of society that the Kenyatta government would betray, independence was greeted with far more euphoria than the so-called national rebirth through the new constitution.

Though the elite had reasons to celebrate independence, soon, ordinary people were groaning.Not withstanding, many refused to ask why and those who did were booed, dismissed, shunted aside, detained and assassinated. After the so-called Narc revolution, ordinary people fared no better though blinded by ethnic politics to this reality.In the referendum, many voted against the new constitution because they wanted a better contract between them and rulers. Now that it’s through, Kenyans will repeat errors committed at independence and after the Narc revolution at their own peril.

The voters were right to trust the victors with a new constitution and an MoU to amend it after passage. The bilateral talks should commence forthwith. It will be in bad taste for Prime Minister Raila Odinga to renege on this MoU, the way President Kibaki reneged on the one with him.

The drivers of the new constitution must also prove that counties drawn on ethnic lines are not majimbo and how the new law will preserve Kenya as one nation without waging war against negative ethnicity in counties, to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination by ruling ethnic majorities.How will historical land injustices be redressed against land-grabbers without encouraging ethnic communities to pursue the restoration of ancestral lands taken from them by British colonialists but are today settled upon by people from other communities?Were these Kenyans not assured at independence that they could, with legality and propriety, buy or be given land anywhere in Kenya without fear of future eviction?The implementation of the new constitution must answer these questions or we shall have departed from the rule of law to vanquish impunity.The minister in charge of constitution-writing, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, has said there will be no dialogue over amendments to the constitution, validating fears that the document is not amendable.

But the new constitution must stabilise the country politically and not plunge it into a bottomless pit of moral decadence. Nor should the arrogance of leaders be allowed to turn people against the new constitution.How can we say we now have a constitution of freedom when it authorises detention without trial, albeit during states of emergency or war?How can victims of detention like Mr Odinga reintroduce this monster into our constitution and politics?Disappointingly, the new constitution has no problems with our kind of capitalism that generates more poverty than wealth and more corruption than development.How then will the poverty of our capitalism, if not substituted with social democracy, deliver the nation from destitution and guarantee Kenyans their economic and social rights of food, housing, health-care and education?

Though I wish Kenyans good luck with the new constitution, I cannot help fearing the day when soon, they will be groaning under the burden of increased salaries of MPs, Senators and Governors and high taxes from both national and county governments.Once, Israelis asked Samuel to give them a king. Samuel warned them that such a king would take their sons and them serve with his chariots… He would take their daughters to be his perfumers, cooks and bakers… He would take the best of their fields and vineyards and give them to his attendants… He would take a tenth of their grain and give it to his officials… He would take a tenth of their flocks and make them slaves.When that day came, Samuel warned, they would cry and God would not listen. But they refused to listen, saying: No! We want a king over us.Is history repeating itself in Kenya with the new constitution? God forbid!

Kogi Wa Wamwere


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