Our problem is a selfish political class not gaps in Constitution

It is amazing how our politicians refuse to learn from history. Instead of sorting out their internal disputes between themselves, they are copying the British (something never wise) and drawing us all into their shenanigans.

In 2013, David Cameron, then Prime Minister of the UK, announced that he would call a referendum on British membership in the European Union, hoping to settle an internal debate within his Conservative Party. There was some discontent with the EU in some circles, but this was essentially a party debate that he turned into a national issue.

Mr Cameron duly called a referendum in 2016 hoping that “remain” would win and settle the debates in his party once and for all. But he forgot to include thresholds for turnout and for a reasonable margin of victory for such a momentous decision. He was cocky and overconfident, expecting that most of the country would agree with him on remaining in the EU. The Brexit side on the other hand, was the underdog and came at the referendum with lies, tricks and what has now been found to be illegalities, including getting help from Russia and the devious Cambridge Analytica. They conflated membership to the EU with the emotional question of migration and turned the issues upside down.

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They had no plan for the UK in case they won, lying that the UK would be better off--after leaving—despite knowing that would not be the case. They also churned out ideas of English exceptionalism and nationalism implying that Brexit would mean the return of the British Empire. Turnout was low, despite the life-changing significance of this referendum, which favored the Brexit side and they were declared the winners, largely on the back of English voters (except in London) as Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain.

Since then, the UK has been in crisis mode, uneasy and uncertain and with a shaky currency. It is not clear what will happen next, but a “hard” Brexit is quite likely, with massive negative social, economic and political consequences.

The unbelievable incompetence of outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May who approached the exit discussions with the EU in an opaque manner, and who wanted to restrict discussions on the final deal, did not help.

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Given his historic incompetence, economy with the truth and bluster, it would not be surprising if Boris Johnson is the last prime minster of the United Kingdom, as Scotland and North Ireland focus on independence or unification to mitigate the harsh consequences.

All this drama across the seas is no secret, given information flows, but still our politicians are prepared to make the same mistakes as David Cameron and Theresa May and drag us into a referendum on our constitution. Yet the issue here is not that the constitution has failed or that it is weak, but that the political class has violated it, ignored it and trashed it.

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But to settle some of their internal differences, Jubilee is prepared to take us down a path that will surely have serious negative consequences for us. Yes, there is a political problem within Jubilee, around succession and the future survival of some well-placed families and their wealth, but that is a problem of its own making and should not involve us. These issues should be settled politically or by using criminal law. Indeed, only selfish and narrow-minded people believe the succession games will result in a better Kenya given the extent of looting, land grabbing, vengefulness and arrogance that prospective successors have publicly exhibited.   

It is in this context that we should see the Punguza Mizigo initiative as a trial balloon to get us ready for a referendum. And we should remember the role that Ekuru Aukot played in trying—but thankfully unsuccessfully—to legitimise UhuRuto in taking part in the illegitimate election re-run of October 2017, held after the IEBC refused to make the significant changes needed after the Supreme Court threw out the August 2017 election.

Only someone who has been living in Mars can accept that IEBC at face value, that it “verified” the 1.4 million signatures provided. It is an outfit better known for dishonesty, opacity and lack of integrity as shown in its constant procurement lootings, than for probity, competence and integrity. It has not published the full list of signatures, but it expects us to take it at its word that 1.2 million signatures are fine!

I will hazard a guess that this “verification” by IEBC has as much to do with procurement and influx of funds into the IEBC as anything else. And it is also about trying to legitimise an outfit that should have been disbanded in September 2017. For if we have a referendum in the next months, who else can “organise” it? Who else will be the recipient of the billions that IEBC says it needs for the referendum? Ultimately, we must ask: Is all this about trashing the constitution that has barely been implemented so we forget that our real problem is a devious, conniving, thieving, narcissistic and selfish political class? 

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

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ReferendumCorruptionConstitutionPunguza Mizigo