“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi
In a month’s time, we will be celebrating the fourth anniversary of the promulgation of our Constitution, the symbolic birth of Kenya’s “Second Republic”. Yes, August 27 will forever remain immortal in the sands of our time, a lasting memory of that epochal moment in 2010 when we boldly crossed the Rubicon and set the motherland on the path of renaissance. It is said you must never be afraid to take one giant leap if it is obvious that you cannot cross a chasm in two little steps. By overwhelmingly endorsing a new Constitution, we took a massive step towards a fresh start. A new dawn. We brought to life a dream that had wafted for inordinately long. Broke a storm that had raged more than humanely bearable. Realised a vision held back for decades by all sorts of malevolent forces.
Whatever fears or hopes, apprehensions or dreams we may nurse, the promise of a new Kenya embodied in a fresh constitutional order is one cause worth living and fighting for. Of course concerns remain about the pace and direction of the train of transformation. Napoleon Bonaparte would say, “Victory is not won in miles, but in inches. You capture an inch and hold onto that, and move on”. Indeed, we have made some progress. But even if you are on the right track, you will be run over if you just sit there!
Yes, our country remains vulnerable to myriad challenges. Vestiges of impunity persist in stubbornly resisting the irresistible winds of change. Widening inequality, sickening want and gross injustice continue to characterise our national existence. Insecurity still stalks our people across the length and breadth of the republic. Our politics remains toxic and divisive. There are challenges galore. But what is undoubted is the exciting opportunity to remake the foundations of our nation, to shift the anchor of our statehood from the rule of man to the rule of law, to re-engineer values and principles that must define us.
Values are of particular significance, especially in light of our deplorable history of impunity that has flourished in an environment of little regard for principle. The Constitution provides a highly progressive template for nurturing a culture that celebrates some irreducible minimum intrinsic values. Article 10(1) is emphatic that “The national values and principles of governance in this article bind all State organs, State officers, public officers and all persons whenever any of them, interprets this Constitution; enacts, applies or interprets any law; or makes or implements public policy decisions”.
These values and principles include patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised; good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.
The Constitution has also raised the bar for leadership, offering the country a platform to anchor high standards that expect nothing but the best of those who manage public affairs.
Article 73(1) provides that “authority assigned to a State officer is a public trust to be exercised in a manner that is consistent with the purposes and objects of the Constitution; demonstrates respect for the people; brings honour to the nation and dignity to the office; promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office; and vests in the State officer the responsibility to serve the people rather the power to rule them”. And 73(2) goes further to set the guiding principles of leadership and integrity as including selection on the basis of personal integrity, competence and suitability, or election in free and fair elections; objectivity and impartiality in decision making, and in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices; selfless service based solely on the public interest, accountability to the public for decisions and actions; and discipline and commitment in service to the people.
Moving forward, let us remain alive to the collective responsibility we all bear to make the Constitution a living reality. In declaring that “every person has an obligation to respect, uphold and defend (this) Constitution”, article 3(1) assigns us all, citizens of this great land, the divine duty to construct our Second Republic and hoist high the new order. In fulfilling this task, we must be aware that a driver does not keep his eye on the bonnet, nor a rider on the wheel, otherwise he would crash or fall.
You keep your eye on the road, on the horizon ahead, on the destination...the goal. That goal must remain a better Kenya for all, where justice truly is our shield and defender. If anything stands in the way to this goal, we must not hesitate to take remedial measures, including the referendum route.