By Barrack Muluka
Democratic Constitutions never sit well with self-serving leadership. Such has been the tragedy of independent Africa. Where they have existed, they have had to be resisted or destroyed.
Such is the tragedy of Kenya. The traditional political class and its progeny just cannot co-exist with democracy and good governance.
In the wake of independence, Kanu set out to systematically undermine the Independence Constitution. Two decades after independence, we had squandered the dream of a free fair and just nation. We are at it again.
People make Constitutions so that they can help them to live at peace with one another. Many years ago, the British found the different tribes that today make up the Kenyan nation living differently.
Each had its own tribal law that defined itself as customs and traditions. These laws governed life and relations from birth to the grave and beyond. But the British brought us together under a new formation as their subjects. They imposed their colonial law upon us.
When it eventually became clear that the British must go, the dilemma was whether we should go back where we had been before they arrived. That way we would each continue with our tribal laws. But we could not. Only 38 years of colonial rule (1923-1961) had transformed us to a point of no return.
We had therefore to agree that we were all going to live together under one tribe called Kenya, under one law. The Constitution would be the mother of all the laws. That was why we went to Lancaster.
In Lancaster, some of us were afraid. Historian David Anderson has said that the opposition party Kadu was born out of fear of domination. It was a defensive party that sought a devolved Constitution that would correct some of the injustices of the past.
Barely one year after independence, it was difficult to see what Kenyans had fought for. Kadu was dead, with its dreams. Kenyatta dismissed the independence Constitution as a “temporary document.” He had his own ideas.
By the time Mzee left us in 1978, the Constitution had been distorted beyond recognition. First it had been amended to give us a President we did not elect. Second it made it impossible to democratically remove this President, despite simulation of Presidential elections.
Third it piled up draconian powers in the Presidency. Fourth it killed devolved Government. Next it demonised and later crippled dissent. In all, it created a constitutional autocracy. Parliament became the headquarters of political mischief and rubber stamp of Executive whims.
What Mzee left unfinished, the Nyayo dispensation completed. The nation was ruled by fiat. We are back to our good old mischief. Some Members of Parliament have distinguished themselves as enemies of the people. The period 1982-2010 was the season of struggle for liberation. August 27 was the presumptive turning point.