This country has travelled a long and winding path to democracy. Lives were lost, communities were traumatised and the conscience of the entire nation was scarred in part by the tragedy that was 2008 post-poll violence and more. The world watched in horror as Kenyans descended on one another with a destructive fury as though some satanic trance had descended upon us.
For a country that had long appeared as an oasis of peace in this troubled part of the continent, this was indeed a moment of reckoning. We quickly learned the value of strong institutions. When we speak of the peaceful 2022 elections and the subsequent seamless transfer of power, we must appreciate the role of institutions we created through Agenda Four reforms and the new Constitution and their significance in placing us firmly on the path of a fledgling democracy.
However, the forces that benefited from the tyranny of the past are not willing to give up without a fight. Twelve short years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, there is no commission that I would say enjoys the overwhelming support of Kenyans.
A spot check reveals how deep the cannibalisation has happened. First, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). After years of misuse of prosecutorial powers under the office of the Attorney General, these powers were moved to a stand-alone office and further insulated with the security of tenure. As we speak, high-profile cases that were commenced during a pompous war on graft have all but eaten the dust. The current director has gone on record that he was under pressure to prosecute some people during the last regime. The resultant trust deficit is monumental. A DPP who cannot resist executive interference, an Inspector General of Police whose hiring is highly influenced by the president, and an AG who is a presidential appointee makes the entire criminal justice system look like the extension of State House. I suggest that Parliament revisit the Security Amendment Act of 2014 and revert the hiring of the chief cop to the National Police Service Commission.
Second, let us look at public finance, the two offices, the Controller of Budget (CoB) and Auditor General are supposed to serve as public defenders’ number one. If the utterances attributed to the current holders are anything to go by, there is nothing to smile about. The Auditor General openly encouraging the corrupt to invest in Kenya reeks of a public officer at the end of her tether. The CoB has also come under sharp focus after the current officeholder publicly admitted she cleared payments that she should have flagged. These two should incense the people enough to want to disband and reconstitute these offices.
With the institutions under the criminal justice system gasping for breath just as their counterparts within the public finance space, you may think that the electoral management body is doing any better until you stumble on the recommendations of the Muchelule-led tribunal. The accusations and counter-accusations as to which faction wanted to influence the last elections or influenced the elections have continued to subsist seven months after the elections.
Like the rats in Aesop’s fables, we will ask, who will bell the cat of supposedly independent commissions and offices which are more than eager to bend backwards to accommodate political niceties rather than uphold the high calling of their offices? Could it be that we hired the least qualified? Well, these institutions are manned by men and women with sterling resumes.
If we let the integrity of our institutions be cannibalised by both acts of omission or commission but did not stop it in time, we have ourselves to blame. We need a sustained campaign to ensure only the best man in our institutions. We need competent people who will navigate the political landmines, resist manipulation and remain defenders of the people. Institutions are the buffer between a democracy and a tyranny.
Mr Kidi is a policy and governance expert. [email protected]