By Charles Kanjama
Ine Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
My favourite work of creative literature is J R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It also consistently features in various booklists as one of the top novels of the last millennium. Tolkien’s work boasts an eminently rave-worthy review: “The English-speaking world is divided into two: those who have read The Lord of the Rings, and those who are going to read it.”
The book is a masterpiece of creative writing, about Middle Earth, the land of elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, hobbits, balrogs, and men. A world of real landscapes, ancient languages, histories, heroic tales, and great tragedies. A world whose fate, at the close of its Third Age, rests on one puny ring, forged with great skill but also mischief in the raging cauldron of Mount Doom.
To apply the metaphor, Kenya’s new Constitution is Tolkien’s one ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them. Whoever wields it, whoever becomes its ultimate authority, will obtain great power to determine the politics and culture of this country, to redefine our past, reorganise our present, and reorient our future.
The metaphor may be troubling and yet it is so. The doctrine of the supremacy of the Constitution can only be unpackaged by recognising that the Constitution has no life of its own. It does not speak for itself; neither does it have a mind of its own. Its power comes from those who speak for it.
So we must reject those trying to foist on us all the fiction that the Constitution is able to speak an arcane tongue unknown to the Kenyans who voted for it on August 4, 2010. Thus columnist Makau Mutua is wrong when he argues that the same document that gains its power from the people’s vote actually ordains something totally alien to the people’s intention, namely homosexuality.
Such arguments are based on opportunistic interpretations that Kenyans did not contemplate. It would be a total overthrow of the principle of democracy to accept such ideas. Indeed it deserves repeating, that the Constitution only binds us because we chose it, to the extent we chose and only for as long as we choose.