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Why CORD should think twice about push to disband Interim Electoral and Boundaries Commission

By Charles Kanjama | July 28th 2013

By Charles Kanjama

While introducing Aesop’s Fables, G.K. Chesterton comments, “Aesop embodies an epigram not uncommon in human history; his fame is all the more deserved because he never deserved it. The firm foundations of common sense, the shrewd shots at uncommon sense, that characterise all the fables, belong not to him but to humanity... The historical Aesop, in so far as he is historical, would seem to have been a Phrygian slave.”

Aesop’s fables feature anthropomorphic animals, meaning animals that interact like human beings, and yet ultimately behave like animals do. They are more ‘types’ than ‘individuals’, but they teach us immortal truths about individuals who typically behave according to types. As Chesterton explains, “fables repose upon the idea that everything is itself, and will speak for itself. The wolf will always be wolfish, the fox will always be foxy.” A typical Aesop’s fable is titled, ‘the Wolf and the Lamb’. A Wolf came upon a Lamb straying from the flock, and felt guilty about killing so helpless a creature without a credible excuse. So he accused the Lamb, “Last year, you grossly insulted me.” “That is impossible sir,” bleated the Lamb, “for I wasn’t born then.” “Well,” retorted the Wolf, “you feed in my pastures.” “That cannot be,” replied the Lamb, “for I have never yet tasted grass.” “You drink from my spring then,” howled the Wolf. The poor Lamb explained, “But sir, I have never drunk anything but my mother’s milk.” Fed-up, the hungry Wolf concluded, “Well, anyway, I’m not going without my dinner,” and he leaped upon the Lamb and devoured it without further ado.

Recently in Kenya, there has been much ado about security of tenure and stability in office of several state officers and constitutional bodies. There is an argument that the Attorney General, who validly remains in office after appointment under the new Constitution, must be vetted afresh. There is a related argument that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which remains in office after holding elections perceived to have been bungled, should be reconstituted before expiry of their term.

The really surprising fact is this: it is the Opposition that is fighting security of tenure, whether constitutional or administrative, of state officers. I have no doubt that if they keep up this political fight, they will succeed, just like the Wolf in the fable did, regardless of their underlying reason. Because like the fable, the political agitation will wear down any protector of the Lamb, and the Wolf will eventually have his dinner.

Yet I’d advise the Opposition to seriously reconsider. Because Executive where key state officers lack security of tenure or stability of office is even more under the control and discretion of the politicians in power. Once the Opposition gets its way and removes IEBC commissioners, then expect the success to come back and haunt them, since their blueprint will be stored in government shelves, and will eliminate security of tenure for other constitutional bodies too.

If the bipartisan commissions set up by the Tenth Parliament are deemed partisan, then those formed now will be more so. The fractious co-operation of the coalition government has given way to outright partisanship, and the CORD Coalition is unlikely to obtain parity in any reconstitution of IEBC. CORD should think twice about the push to disband IEBC, because once they make their bed, they will be forced to lie on it.

Likewise, if the Senate amends the Constitution to give itself more powers, then expect the National Assembly and the Executive to store the blueprint for future use. Similarly, if the Senate succeeds in directly confronting the National Assembly, and they do have genuine grievances, then expect Governors to use the same strategy against Senators. So the Senate can only weaken the National Assembly at risk to itself.  In another Aesop’s fable, a Wolf stole a lamb from the flock, and was carrying it off to devour it, when he met a Lion, who grabbed it and walked off with it. The Wolf dared not resist, but complained, “It is most unjust of you to grab what’s mine like that.” The Lion laughed and roared in reply, “It was justly yours, no doubt! A gift from a friend, perhaps?”


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