Why youth should lead push for change to our 2010 Constitution

Youth during a past protest at Rioma market in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Two thousand years ago, Jesus famously said that ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’

At the heart of this assertion was the principle that the Sabbath was meant to help people, not burden them. The same thing applies to national constitutions.

They are meant to help citizens, not burden them. That’s why after 13 years, time is ripe for us to sincerely evaluate and choose to further develop our evolving Constitution to adapt to our changing needs and circumstances of our 50 million Kenyans, particularly the young people.

Some 75 per cent of Kenyans are below the age of 35. Among them are my two daughters and son. They are the biggest beneficiaries of a vibrant Constitution that safeguards their livelihoods. This constitutional moment is their moment.

Ten years from now in 2033, many of these youth will be in their prime enjoying the fruits of seeds that they planted. At that time, our leaders today will likely, be out of active politics. Against this backdrop, this constitutional moment shouldn’t be reduced to partisan moments which may lead to an influx of litigation drama. That’s why I am part of a team of Kenyans who constitute the Katiba Popular Initiative.

The team seeks to lay a stronger constitutional foundation upon which we can all build a great nation devoid of any form of political shenanigans. Undeniably, our great nation is grappling with effects of these four major socio-economic complications: unemployment; public debt; public wage bill and a fragile tax base.

Truth be told, these issues are excruciating Kenyans 13 years later even after the promulgation of one of the world’s best constitutions ever. Is it not therefore the God given opportunity to consider constitutional means of tackling them? Did we not see the Church come up with a code of ethics to self-regulate its governance after all other natural and spiritual efforts seemed to be failing?

We must therefore earnestly pose fundamental questions: are there certain constitutional provisions that aren’t addressing the pressing needs of our young people? As regards integrity, is it not possible to constitutionally reinforce agencies like EACC that are tasked with fighting graft?

Is it not possible to entrench sanctions against state officers who violate the Leadership and Integrity Chapter of our Constitution?

Regarding national elections, why does every electoral cycle usher in chaos, conflict, destruction and death? Answers to these questions may judiciously inform potential amendments to our Constitution.

I should note at this point that amendment is part of the constitutional implementation process. That’s why there are constitutional provisions for constitutional amendment. Related to leadership, can our Executive be more inclusive to avoid the winner-take-all approach that augurs ill for our multi-ethnic society?  

Since we have experienced the power of devolution, can we now restructure funding in a way that allocation goes down to the ward level? Can we heal the challenge of unemployment by establishing a Self-Employment Fund to facilitate youth and women economic empowerment endeavours?

Because public debt remains a thorn in our flesh, can we establish a constitutional cap and clear guidelines for borrowing? Can we give Parliament power to manage the debt ceiling and threshold for such approvals including domestic borrowing? Regarding huge public wage bill, can we entrench austerity measures as a constitutional provision? Can we restructure and merge public offices that have overlapping and duplicated roles?

Observing our tax regime, can we constitutionally expand our tax base? Can we effect liberal, flexible, and innovative policy on social and economic rights that also deal with the negative effects of climate change?

Can we consider what Pope Francis has reminded us that efforts to save the planet are urgent and no longer deferrable? I pose these hearty questions for the youth to rise to the occasion, embrace this constitutional moment and move towards a popular initiative for posterity. Think green, act green!