Let's step up political and social manners before amending law

The dialogue team finally broke off to collate the expansive views received from Kenyans. What I find amazing is Kenyans' enduring faith in such committees, despite knowing that their outcomes are largely pre-determined.

And so, in numbers they came and made passionate presentations on all manner of concerns. Fortunately, the committee's agenda had been framed widely enough to incorporate the panoply of issues Kenyans are all experts on.

Interestingly not much was said on the cost of living, though this had ostensibly been the primary reason for the talks.

Most presentations centered on electoral justice issues which incorporate boundary delimitation, and reconstitution of the IEBC, and Azimio's pet topic; the audit of the 2022 elections.

Some issues as old as the 2009 Naivasha talks came up. The most unoriginal being the proposal to reduce counties and constituencies to lower the cost of running government.

In theory, no one would be opposed to anything that brings down these huge costs. But there are practical and political reasons why that proposal is not serious. In 2009, there was general agreement that Kenya needed not more than 18 counties.

However, all tested permutations raised numerous political alarms. The most contentious was how to deal with Nakuru; and it was the inability to resolve the myriad political questions it raised that made us end with 47 counties.

As for constituencies, this would have been possible long ago until CDF was birthed. Kenyans now understand that the constituency is a locus of resource allocation.

I am not aware of any Kenyan who would want their constituency merged with another thus losing the benefit of higher per capita CDF allocations. Of course, one of the popular targets of the "we have too many representatives" refrain is the Woman Representative position.

The only challenge is those who propose it do not then tell the country how we will achieve the not more than two thirds gender if we jettison these affirmative action seats.

Another interesting proposal was the one from the Council of Governors to make it difficult to impeach them, in the same manner the Elections Act had made the MP's recall process impossible until the section was declared unconstitutional.

The issue raised is fundamental and requires more reflection. Why, in a presidential system, would a person elected by thousands, sometimes millions, be subjected to removal by a small number of manipulatable politicians? Doesn't that offend the very essence of voter sovereignty and democracy?

Finally, there was an eloquent presentation by Mt Kenya jurists who raised some solid issues except the part about the Mountain being marginalised. I do not know what term we would use on the Turkanas, the Njemps or even the Kurias if we accepted that Mount Kenya is marginalised.

That said, many meritorious issues raised would require a referendum, if the process survives the courts! However, the country is not ready, administratively, financially, or politically for a plebiscite. Administratively we do not have an IEBC. It will take a couple of months before we have a commission in place.

The commissioners would need to settle for at least several months before taking on such an undertaking. The framed questions would need to go for public participation and then percolate in Parliament for three months before being subjected to a vote.

That would take us dangerously close to the 2027 elections. Economically, the country is in financial doldrums. We cannot afford some Sh30 billion or so to run a referendum.

Politically and socially, we have just started settling from the 2022 polls. The disruption another season of campaigning would cause would lead to irredeemable social damage.

Consequently, the most that can be done is tinker with issues which are amenable to statutory interventions. We, however, need to agree that the answer to Kenya's problems is not more law.

Most of our challenges require informal political interventions and inculcation of better political and social manners. And to implement what we already have.

We need to stop seeing the mirage of the law as the ultimate solution to our woes otherwise we shall be in this "amend the Constitution" track for eons.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya