All the noise about the referendum is about them, not us

We know that when our normally cranky and divided politicians — regardless of party, tribe, or persuasion — seem to agree, we the people are always  the sufferers and victims. This is what always happens when they want to increase their salaries and benefits, no matter what the law, public opinion or budget demands: they brush us aside and continue kama kawaida (business as usual) as our taxes keep rising.

For the last few weeks, we have been seeing a well-choreographed barrage of statements and commentary from the politicians, all talking up “inclusivity,” the need for a parliamentary system that will expand the top echelons of the Executive. And so far, interestingly, all the suggestions are for five top positions — President, Deputy President, Prime Minister and two Deputy Prime Ministers — that correlate with the Big 5 tribes in Kenya. We have heard from ODM, Jubilee, and the Council of Governors, among others, all singing from the same song-sheet. That is not a coincidence.

Through all these statements, there has hardly been a word about the benefits that will accrue to ordinary Kenyans; we are left to make the inference that somehow having someone who speaks your mother-tongue in high office represents “inclusivity.” And that silence about the public interest, is simply because the changes that are being mooted are not about us.

We are being goaded into a path of constitutional change knowing little about what is really behind it, although it is motivated by the March 9th “hand-cheque.” Yet, the obvious question of how we ended up here, divided, angry and frustrated is not being answered. We have had the Constitution in place for eight years now, and what we all know is that there has not been much enthusiasm in implementing it fully: From the start, the Kibaki regime could not countenance restrictions that prohibited it from doing as it wished with appointments, scholarships and control.

And these nyayos were replicated by the Jubilee regime, which is notorious in ignoring the Constitution for its version of high-handed unilateral decision-making for its own benefit. Indeed, the number of cases filed against the Jubilee regime or Parliament for violating the Constitution are too many to count. It is an almost monthly occurrence that has led to significant fatigue among those who raise constitutional questions. 

It is a fact that the Jubilee experiment, founded on electoral theft and manipulation, has divided Kenya like never before. And that is because stealing power — whether by the gun or the ballot — inevitably leads to anger, frustrations and animosity. We can agree that Jubilee, founded on a culture of grabbing, corruption and impunity that was inherited from the Kanu regime, has mastered the looting nyayos, with corruption worse than ever before.

Jubilee really has no clue about what needs to be done to improve the dignity of ordinary people, which includes respecting us, helping to lift the poor from poverty, and engaging in public participation so that we are the owners of the development that is “given to us.”

This, incidentally, is not rocket science, as Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana has so appropriately shown the world. Rather than follow Gov. Kibwana’s example, the Jubilee regime has instead opted for big showy items (bling) in an outdated and unworkable version of trickle-down economics that provides room for theft and looting. And it has tried to force us all to accept it, because of its inherent illegitimacy, resorting to bullying, tear gas, bullets and attempted banning of NGOs. But the theft and mismanagement are coming home to roost with our debts rising so much that we are in danger of giving up the country to some of our creditors, such as the Chinese, whose debts are not without conditions, whatever the rhetoric. It is for this reason that our taxes are so high and rising each month.  

We are not hearing politicians talking about getting to the bottom of NYS1. Or the Eurobond scandal where some US$1 billion vanished. Or how the SGR leapt from Sh80 billion from Mombasa to Kisumu to Sh360 billion from Mombasa to Nairobi. Nor are we hearing demands for Weston Hotel to be demolished in the same way that other buildings on grabbed land were demolished. And we are not being told why destroying the economy of Mombasa and the coast by destroying the port by forcing the use of the SGR is good for Kenya.

Given that context, we can guess that the proposed amendments of a Constitution that has barely been implemented are aimed at re-inventing Uhuru Kenyatta as Prime Minister so that he maintains immunity, and at the same time allow Raila Odinga to ascend to the Presidency, even if it is ceremonial. And there will be space created for Gideon Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi or others from their tribes.

I could be wrong, but clearly all this noise is about them, not us. We have seen too many times the political somersaulting by our politicians to maintain us in poverty while they live the high life at our expense. Nothing seems different with this push for constitutional change.

- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]

Deputy Prime MinistersODMCouncil of GovernorsMarch 9EurobondKivutha KibwanaKNCHRUhuru Kenyatta as Prime Minister