National Accord, 10 years later: A Case of few hits, many misses?

Many Kenyans will recall scenes outside Harambee House 10 years ago yesterday, where before international mediator Kofi Annan, former President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreement bringing an end to two months of violence following the disputed presidential election results.

When the guns fell silent, at least 1,300 people had died and hundreds of thousands had been displaced and property worth millions destroyed.

The two went on to form the Grand Coalition Government, which for all intents and purposes was to end the post-election conflict and chaperone the new constitutional dispensation.

A lot more will remember scenes from Uhuru Park two years later in 2010 as the new Constitution-hailed as the most progressive on the continent- was promulgated before an exuberant crowd.

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There were four agendas in the National Accord as the document came to be referred. Agenda 1 was to stop the violence; Agenda 2 was to promote healing and reconciliation; Agenda 3 dwelt on how to overcome the political crisis; Agenda 4 (considered the most critical) would address the underlying causes of the violence and one way of doing that was through a new Constitution.

The thinking behind that was to create more avenues for sharing the spoils after an election: So much power and resources were concentrated at the centre.

So after long-drawn-out struggle punctuated with blood and sweat, the unveiling of the new Constitution was a great relief. To many, it would cure corruption, promote inclusivity, reduce inequality and generally, make life better for everyone. It would above all minimise the cut-throat competition for high office, especially the presidency. No longer will Kenyans see a tribesman winning the presidency as a matter of life and death. Alas! We were wrong.

Some of the ingredients of the new Constitution include a robust Bill of Rights; a clear separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The most radical departure was devolution. Keen to disperse power and resources, the drafters of the 2010 Constitution created 47 devolved units.

After a false start, it is now evident that the counties as the new administrative and economic centres are spurring growth in areas previously neglected.

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No sooner had we starting implementing the new Constitution than we saw efforts to mutilate it. Those moves were ominously redolent of the changes that adulterated the Independence Constitution of 1963.

We have seen how an overbearing Executive has rode roughshod on the other arms of Government. It has smothered the independence of the Legislature and undermined its ability to hold the others to accountability.

We witnessed as it denigrated the Judiciary after the annulment of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the August 8 election. So is the glass half empty or a half full?

Indeed, there is a strong sense of déjà vu: The protracted contest about last year’s elections goes to suggest that the underlying problems that the new Constitution had sought to address still linger.

To many Kenyans, the soft issues of Agendas 1, 2 and 3: national healing and reconciliation by addressing the underlying issues of poverty and inequality largely remain unaddressed.  In spite of a new Constitution, our politics remains toxic, rancorous and highly divisive.

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In fact, the government remains an exclusive club of a few tribesmen; the barriers to the high table remain rigid and too high.

Regrettably, the much celebrated devolution has done little to reduce the premium attached to the presidency and by extension, the access to government goodies and State largesse.

Treasury estimates that the elections in 2017, including the two presidential ones cost the Exchequer Sh60 billion. Should we spend so much on an exercise that leaves us worse off?

Whichever way one looks at it, we will be back here again sometime soon unless we fix the cause of the problem. Surely, we have to find a way to drain the hatred, the partisanship, the anger and deep-seated tribalism out of our politics.

But then the answer to that is not in a total overhaul of the Constitution. Certainly, there is some good in the Constitution. It could be made better.

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