Reforms push reeks of mischief, let's end this thirst for power


If it ain't broke, don’t fix it. The words have been attributed to Bert Lance, a close adviser to US President Jimmy Carter (1976–1980). It sounds like a basic common sense matter, yet it isn’t. Our National Executive is all the time fixing stuff that is working well while leaving unattended what needs fixing. 

In medicine, they talk of iatrogenic illnesses. This is when the physician’s intervention introduces new ailments. It is easy to understand, even to forgive iatrogenesis where illness existed in the first place. But what should we say of social iatrogenesis prompted by misplaced focus and group whims?

Kenyans are hearing about such things as changing the presidential term limit, varying terms of service for public servants, and replacing the Office of Registrar of Political Parties with a puppet regulatory commission. There are risks aplenty.

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria thinks that temporary contractual employment is the answer to the pesky wage bill challenge in Kenya. It is a knee-jerk proposal, devoid of any useful fact-based finding.

The challenge in the public service is at the top. These people are extremely expensive to the country. Besides their top-heavy earnings, they are unapologetically wasteful with everything else. They spare themselves absolutely no comfort, at the expense of the nation. 

The Executive in both the national and county governments is an exorbitant gravy train. Introduce austerity in these brackets and you begin solving the financial crunch.

Meanwhile, it helps to recall that a functional public service has been the stabilising factor in a country that is vulnerable to perennial divisive political shocks. This service holds the country together in the worst of political times. It carries on with the role of government, almost as if nothing horrific was happening. It is reckless to tamper with the stability in the sector with whimsical changes. 

with the presidential term limit, for its part, smacks of reckless appetite for perennial power. It also betrays poor knowledge of Kenya’s difficult political history. The genie of unbridled Executive authority and its horrendous history should remain in the bottle. Those who ascend to the highest office in the land should be satisfied to be grateful to God and to the people. They should tame their appetite for more, serve their term and leave. But even if they don’t want to, Kenyans should nip in the bud this high-level thirst for power. 

No less mischievous is the proposal by the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) to amend the Political Parties Act (2011). The proposed amendments will throw the political party space into anarchic confusion. As it exists today, ORPP regulates political parties. The amendment seeks to remove this role, hence make ORPP a toothless and voiceless bulldog. It will neither bite nor bark. 

Besides, it is proposed that in the place of the present single centre of power in ORPP, five centres will be created in the name of commissioners. It is not clear how they will decide on issues, but it will probably be by voting. Now two of these will be “appointed by the majority party in Parliament,” while another two will be “appointed by the minority party.” The fifth commissioner will be appointed by the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Both the mischief and the risks are obvious. Political party dictatorship is to be reintroduced through muppets that will do the bidding of the two major parties in the proposed commission. If they want to expel a member, the two muppets only need to secure support from a third one. That will clearly be muppet number five, the one appointed by the PSC.

But if the PSC is to appoint the fifth muppet, what will be the basis? The Bill says s/he will represent non-parliamentary parties. So, are these to be parties whose MPs are below a certain numeric threshold, or are they parties that do not have a single MP? And how does the PSC determine which of the many parties in either case the commissioner should come from?

The present meritorious approach has so far worked well. Don’t fix it, it ain't broken. 

The government is placing the country in an unhelpful multiple Pandora's box situation. The role of any government in power is service. The present one is overbearingly focused on reintroducing a draconian Executive, unhinged by term limits. The chosen path is to destabilise the public service, as well as crippling institutions that secure democratic rule. ORPP is just one. Others will follow, with the Judiciary as the ultimate prize. To achieve this mischief, State House must fix what is not broken.