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Kenya on a slippery slope for ignoring rule of law

By Tom Mboya | Mar 26th 2022 | 3 min read
By Tom Mboya | March 26th 2022

We seem to have a problem with the rule of law, though it is not that simple. And it is not that it does not exist.

In fact, we often wax lyrical about the progressive nature of our 2010 Constitution.

We are proud of a highly regarded supreme law, and we have spent significant time and resources for a robust legal framework to support it.

With such a solid basis for governance, one wonders why we have not fared better in fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.

The truth is we simply do not follow the laws we have put in place. But how did we get here? Firstly, this state of affairs did not materialise overnight. It is a culture developed over time. A culture of taking short cuts, and finding ‘convenient’ solutions to even the most complex societal problems.

Take traffic laws, for example. Even the most ardent constitutionalist in Kenya would rather part with kitu kidogo than go to court and take responsibility.

In turn, the police officer has learnt that he can extract a pound of flesh from any citizen for nearly any reason under the sun.

Thus, we end up in a vicious cycle characterised by national disregard for the rule of law.

This phenomenon is deeply entrenched among the rich and poor, young and old, those in public office and ordinary citizens.

Recently, an ugly incident happened where a female motorist was accosted and assaulted by a group of boda boda riders following a minor traffic accident.

Despite the furore this incident raised it did not come as a surprise since it is common knowledge that boda bodas have become a law unto themselves, often terrorising motorists and other road users.

They have become a law unto themselves because of the vacuum created by our lack of fidelity to the rule of law.

This enables corruption, where regulations, laws and procedures exist only on paper.

This creates an enabling environment for ambiguity, illegality and corruption. This is precisely the slippery slope Kenya finds herself in.

Fidelity to the rule of law is the only way to address the numerous challenges facing, whether political, social, economic or otherwise.

With this year’s elections looming, and leaders on both sides of the political divide speaking about issues such as economic recovery, fight against corruption, universal healthcare, and constitutional reforms, the harsh reality is that all these will remain empty rhetoric and unachievable if we do not promote and enforce adherence to the rule of law.

The leaders must take urgent interventions to deliver the promises they have made to Kenyans. Such measures must embrace and entrench the rule of law.

We do not necessarily need a raft of constitutional amendments or legal reforms to accomplish this; for the most part the framework already exists.

What is required is courage and political will to lead from the front in adhering to laws and policies, and demonstrating that the same standard will be expected of every Kenyan, regardless of status.

Adherence to the rule of law must be the foundation for any proposals, principles, policies or campaign manifesto articulated at the political platform.

Without it, it will be nearly impossible to achieve any of our national priorities and aspirations.

Like Sonia Satomayor, the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in the US said: “I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all our basic rights”.

The writer is a governance and public policy consultant

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