Public should defend Parliament against Cabinet's overreach on privatisation of State corporations

There are fears and rumours, already, that the new Bill is being sponsored by some folks in high places intent on buying out and owning some of the State firms. [iStockphoto]

Only monarchs and military juntas reign without a direct mandate from the people. Kenya is neither a monarchy nor a vassal of the local (or any foreign) military. Kenyans elect a new government every five years, including Members of Parliament (MPs) as their representatives in the country's supreme legislative assembly.

And the Constitution only provides for the temporal delegation of the people's decisional powers to elected representatives, not a Cabinet made up of presidential appointees. The Kenya Kwanza regime's Cabinet - in the latest front of the new administration's congenital itch and predilection for absolute control - has decided to potentially bypass parliamentary approval in the sale and privatisation of State firms, including sugar factories, hotels, banks, ports and public universities, consequently making a nonsense of the Parliament's function, reputation and history as the socially and constitutionally sanctioned assemblage of the people's representatives.

The new Privatisation Bill 2023 - which follows an amendment of the Privatisation Bill 2005 - not only strips Parliament of its oversight role in the affairs, privatisation (sale) and nationalisation of State corporations, but also, potentially, cloaks their everyday running in the murk of executive powers and privilege, the consequence of which is the relegation of both public interest and transparency to irrelevance and unimportance.

There are fears and rumours, already, that the new Bill is being sponsored by some folks in high places intent on buying out and owning some of the State firms.

It is during times like now that Kenyans should be united in vigilance and defence of Article 95 (2) of the Constitution 2010, which gives the elected members of the National Assembly - the people-chosen representatives of public interest - the mandate and task of deciding on and determining issues such as the disposal of public property.

History shows that it is such (rulers') bald-faced disdain for institutional order that has sometimes been the pressure point for societal friction, instability and collapse.

The English Civil War of 1642-1651, a succession of three wars pitting King Charles I against Parliament, and fought in Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, was caused partly by the king's mistaken and morbid belief in "God-ordained might" and monarchists' institutional supremacy.

The king sought to force the lavish funding of his court and war, and Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland after the king's defeat in the wars, ranged itself against the supremacy - and "sacrosanctity" - of the monarch's powers.

The wars resulted in the Parliament-led execution of the king and England's transformation into a republic. And, of course, the human cost of 127,000 non-combat deaths, with civilians accounting for more than 30 per cent of the toll.

Mr Baraza is the author of the play The Woman in the Messenger's Jacket