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Mutula: Why our reform dream is yet to come true

By - | August 12th 2012

In an interview, former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo (now Education minister) speaks candidly on the reform agenda and the underlying pitfalls, the performance of various constitutional commissions and the success rate of the implementation of the new Constitution. He spoke to The Standard writer BEAUTTAH OMANGA.

QUESTION: You played a key role as Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister in putting in place the National Accord. Where are we as far as issues therein are concerned? 

ANSWER: We still have along way to go in reforms. Agenda Four was aimed at putting the country on the right track ahead of the next elections, but a few months to the polls, we are acting as if nothing ever happened to this country during the 2007 General Election. 

Explain your view

We established commissions with specific mandates and time lines. What have we achieved from them? It is averagely 30 per cent of what they were tasked to do. As a people, we have engaged in political violence since 1992. The main reason it exploded in 2008 was because we never addressed the underlying reasons behind the clashes. We set up agencies to help us address the pertinent issues. The commissions have squandered time while working on so-called working strategies. I am disappointed.

Which of the constitutional commissions have failed to deliver?

Nearly all of them. Take the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, for example. It’s behaving as if it has been caught by surprise that the country is going to the polls. The commission conducted a pilot project on voter registration and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and I were among Kenyans who were registered in 20 constituencies. I am wondering why the commission did not carry on with that project and make it perfect by building from the findings? If the IEBC was serious with its core mandate of conducting credible elections, it should have by now acquired the BVR.

What of the other commission?

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission was set up to help establish the truth regarding thorny issues and historical injustices. Its term has virtually ended and it’s still limping. The country should have gone to the next polls having internalised the contents and proposals of the TJRC report. I wonder why the commissioners were asking for an extension of their term. All they should now do is to hand over the interim report and let it form the basis for open and candid public debate on how to move forward. What Kenyans told them must have been in the public domain by now. How do we go to polls without knowing what triggered the clashes and what the injustices are?

Are you satisfied with the CIC’s work? 

I am equally disappointed though not very much. CIC chairman (Charles) Nyachae comes out as a serious person, but its like he is too slow. He should be more aggressive and push the Executive to fulfil its part as well as other commissions and State organs. 

What of the Kibunjia-led NCIC?

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission is trying, but just like the other commissions, it has not fully exercised its mandate. However, it’s like there is sabotage from some quarters. It has unfinished business including carrying on prosecutions, keeping politicians on toes to ensure they don’t incite Kenyans but what have we done? We have left the commissioners in the dark not knowing if their terms will be extended. Ask yourself what will happen if we don’t extend (Mzalendo) Kibunjia’s term and then we end up starting a process of hiring a new person to that critical office.

What should have been done in the case of NCIC?

It is a crucial player in the country’s political and social stability in readying herself for the polls. This is why NCIC’s term in office ought to have automatically been extended to end the anxiety. Leaving the NCIC members in the confusion they are in undermines the morale of the team. We need to have that commission remain intact.

Has the Executive played its rightful role in ensuring smooth implementation of the new Constitution? 

I am disappointed with the casual manner in which the Executive handles constitutional matters. It should be in the forefront in keeping timelines as set out in the Constitution. Its also to blame for failing to clear Bills meant for debate in Parliament hence holding the entire process to ransom.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

What are your priorities in the Education docket?

We are now developing a Bill on Education. It will address many areas including teachers’ salaries. I am disappointed that the Public Service Commission through the line minister announced salary changes for all civil servants but left out teachers. What does that tell you? It’s like somebody somewhere wants to create a crisis and watch how Mutula deals with it. What I would have expected would be harmonisation of salaries across the board by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. I am surprised that even as teachers issue strike threats and notices, that commission has not issued a statement in response.

What do you expect the salaries commission to address?

At least initiate talks with teachers and give them assurance concerning issues raised. Sitting back as if it’s none of its business is not acceptable. Why do we have it if it cannot address such issues by engaging KNUT and TSC? The new Constitution envisaged some harmony in salaries. However under the Education Bill, I am proposing we establish a special taskforce that will address the teachers’ salaries from the time they are hired till they retire through various grades. 

Comment on the kind of government Kenyans should expect after the polls?

Even before we think of Kenya after the polls, I am concerned that organs mandated with preparing transition from the old order into the new laws by changing the structures are asleep. We should have by now engaged Kenyans fully in determining the kind of leadership they expect at the county levels.

What is your view on the controversy surrounding the appointment of County Commissioners? 

Under Article 187 of the new laws, the roles of the national and county governments are defined. While the President might have gone astray by making the appointments, that doesn’t mean the national government should not have presence at the county levels. The best option is to hold consultations and agree on how it will work out.

What will you be gunning for come March 4 next year?

I have declared my candidature for the Makueni Senate. I am now engaging the electorate.


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