Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kenya a rich but 'potholed' nation cries freedom; Justice hides in a new Constitution?

The late Wangari Maathai. She is sworn in to power but promises to be a hummingbird... 
If we could borrow a little from the big minds we have, young  and old. Dead and alive. If we could, despite our weaknesses take what we know seriously, search for the rebirth of a nation, if only we could.
Hear and listen. Act. 

But we spend most of our time working for positions. Trying to see if one group can lord it over the other.When we are caught in the wrong or suspected, we have tried to argue that this happens to us because we are Africans, I refer now to a recent statement of the African Union regarding the International Criminal Court. Seriously? What will the teens say? Unable to stop and ask where it all goes wrong we grumble and sulk. We have have a wealth of leaders and words never lack. Here is what is reported of Wangari Maathai in 2009 speaking at a meeting of the African Development Bank in Tunis:

"She called on Africans to be critical of themselves as a means of making progress in the areas of natural resource management, sustainable development and poverty reduction. She blamed the continent’s perennial poverty on the mismanagement of the continent’s natural resources, adding that good governance was the missing piece in the continent’s development paradigm. She called for responsible and accountable leadership on the continent, underscoring that poverty could not be overcome across the continent if basic notions such as equity, justice and peace were not taken seriously." 

Nelson Mandela
We refuse to listen to our ancestors more often than our teenagers disobey us. But we all the time speak of the bad ways of the teens. We refuse to accept that we must acknowledge and leave our own prisons. Unchain ourselves where we take ourselves even longer than Mandela at Robben Island. Where we will belong for life in chains unless we learn: 

"But what most amazed me about him(Frank Lebentlele, Mandela's zoology teacher) was his marriage to a Xhosa girl from Umtata. Marriages between tribes were then extremely unusual. Until then,  I had never known anyone who had married outside his tribe. We had been taught that such unions were taboo. But seeing Frank and his wife began to undermine my parochialism and loosen the hold of the tribalism that still imprisoned me. I began to sense my identity as an African, not just a Thembu or even a Xhosa. But this was still a nascent feeling.
" Long Walk to Freedom. Nelson Mandela.

Back to Kenya

General Election time in Kenya we fly over a potholed country, those of us with the means. The rest of us walk for justice to be served. 

Many ride cars and buses, no doubt. The Kenyan railway could be more efficacious. But we were talking about elections. We vote. We kill. We killed in 2007. Displacement and killings go far back at election times only we did not do it so openly as it was in 2007/2008.  We do not always kill for votes but if words were bullets Facebook would be bullet riddled. The Election. Purple fingers. 

And then for a time we live in a cloud of disbelief. This is Kenya. We start election campaigns all over again, almost the day after the election. This is because we believe that with the right people the country can be steered forward. We hope in political leaders like many people in the world do. But do we scrutinise their qualities enough?

We do not spend too much time checking how we and they fit in the law. Examining how we are doing. Nowadays those who search such things are not so popular. They are spoiling the feast. MPs have been called Mpigs for the high salaries they take home but they keep claiming they need this money for people turn to them all day long with needs. Pigs were brought outside Parliament and blood poured there to drive this point home. But we are far from having a country of a political group that is not a class of those who have.  The media is already reporting that the next election is almost on..

KipKoech Tanui wrote in the Standard

"Now the point we are making is; however crude the timing is, the next succession battle has started.
This is typical of we Kenyans really, but the question we should be asking is if we are ready for the next divisive referendum under the same IEBC cast, and with TON (tyranny of numbers) intact? What about the cost? I would have told you about the other issue probably at play but it is too hot…and has to do with what will soon happen at The Hague.

What about certain values that we give as evidence of where we want to be? Values that say about us that we and our ancestors knew how to govern ourselves... such values? They are enshrined in the Constitution 2010.

Leadership and Integrity: 
Article 73....
(b) Objectivity and impartiality in decision making, and ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices;
(c) Selfless service based solely on public interest, demonstrated by--
(i) Honesty in execution of public duties; and
(ii) the declaration of any personal interest that may conflict with public duties....

and so many other wonderful things. In the above alone can we start to show paths that lead to better management of diversity. 

Preceding this chapter is Chapter Five on land: This is an explosive topic regarding ownership of how much and by who. The work is carved out for Parliament. We are told that Parliament shall enact legislation "To prescribe minimum and maximum land holding acreages in respect to private land."

Unless we take this chapter in the Constitution of Kenya and forge it into deeds, we shall not achieve justice. Land matters will continue to tear us apart. They will be fired by a forced perception of ourselves as beneficiaries of this and that because we come from a specific ethnic group. 

While it is natural to belong to one, there is everything wrong in making it the first fact that has to be known about us and the key to opportunities. The failure to understand that we cannot be well off if the other is oppressed. 

Like the Sixth Commandment - for those of you who know it- Leadership and Integrity is the 6th Chapter of Kenya's new Constitution. Now if I may extrapolate, this Constitution was not given from above as Moses was given the tablet of the Law. We gave it to ourselves. We should not violate it so often. We threw out the first one - save some ribs- mutilated hundreds of times in forms of amendment to suit the powers that were. 

It was one written in Lancaster House, Britain. It was often called the independence constitution. Why, when we received independence, we also went up the mountain and raised a flag there. Mount Kenya.  But Kenyans opened it, read it, tried to live with it. The law courts run, lawyers made their money. Poor people suffered. I remember one example.

I will never forget a man in tatters who arrived in a land office having slept somewhere for days on the way to Nairobi to try and catch the thief who had taken his land. He did not know Nairobi well. He found a relative who lived in the far outskirts of the city. He walked again from that house to the city every day for months. Initially, he thought that just getting to be shown Sheria House, the House of Law was enough. 

When he found his way to a lawyer, he thought he had finally struck it right. The person behind the counter told him to run home for a few more papers. That was it.  He came and went for months. And now I was looking at his worn out face, shoes and clothes in a complaint office at Sheria House. This is just one of millions of cases of the unreachable law and justice and the case is much the same today. 

If we look at how we are treating Chapter Six on Integrity and many other aspects of this constitution, we can say we are just facing the book of the law, the mother or all laws - our Constitution.

It was in 1991 when almost "All with one accord" to quote the national anthem... "Let all with one accord/ in common bond united/ build this our nation together/ and the glory of Kenya..." when the people agreed to start the struggle for reforms, the overhaul of the old constitution in some cases. In fact we got a new document. The difference was that this time the people gave to themselves, their nation and generations to come on August 27th 2010. And a national anthem many are proud of was played and is played again and again.

"Seen as a dinosaur during the struggle for a new order,  the Independence Constitution, sagging even more countless mendments to suit power at different times was replaced. In being replaced it ceased to exist."

That was the 1963 Lancaster Constitution made in London with the Crown and a few Kenyans who were quite bold was gone.  Details can be found elsewhere. The dust settled to a new election which was moved from August 2012 according to the New Constitution to 4th March 2013 for reasons of unpreparedness under the new law. Elections and Constitution were at hand.

There was much to celebrate even when the spirit of the Constitution seemed challenged. The spirit of change was nor part of President Mwai Kibaki's style and a new constitution was foisted upon him by the times.  Commitment to human rights tears. The first time I read about Kenya pulling out of the Rome Statute, the idea was reported as this president's. Reform was not his way but the times swayed them in.

For indeed Kenya, a signatory to the Rome Statute, the basis of the International Criminal Court invited for the occasion of the celebration of the constitution an indictee, The President of Sudan for the last 25 years, Omar al Bashir born in 1944. He, an army brigadier, who went to power in a "bloodless" military coup in 1989. Some diplomats left the celebrations. Kenyans raised questions. In 2012, the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, forwent an AU meeting in her country rather than have this president among her guests. I digress.

Great change had been written into Kenya. A small tip. The Constitution 2010, had taken away what Pres. Moi used to call "his secret weapon".  The Date.  The date of a new election was his to determine.  It is now boldly written into this Constitution that:

"A general election ... will be held on the second Tuesday in August every fifth year."

Fast forward to a nation that wants to be allowed to be what it is: 
At once a loveable place, a part of the world any human being would love to live in. A place where flourishing water has even been found under a suffering and dry part of the Northern country -called the Northern Frontier by the Brits- water enough to last us 70 years, a dream come true. Found in Kenya: Oil and many minerals. Resources we are full of.

It does not matter what some say, but this find does remind me of Wangari Maathai (R.I.P, (25.9.2011) the tireless environmental activist,  and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2004), not only because she planted trees and urged all to do so but also because she believed in this planets capacity to regenerate itself with a little help from us. She was committed at heart and had a vision of the fact that small little things matter in all departments.

And this is a resource in itself. It would do us much good to reflect that we can all take something positive to fill the rifts between people in our country. To move more towards those who are always the majority at the baseline. Those who are marginalised under a constitution that promises so much to them. Fearlessness of Devolution, something the current government elected on 2013 is trying to fight. 

Kenya can be led to ruins or taken so high that people will be searching for the alps in its deserts and diversified landscape for once it was called -The Switzerland of Afrika. It is political agendas that are holding Kenya back. These become a barrier when power must remain within certain circles. Ethnic enclaves determine who has power. Things other than merit are used to get to the top. And with this kind of game, breathing and working in between elections is hard.

Kenyans are held in a spell of politicking from one election to the next. So that one wonders who is working tirelessly just on the job without thinking about the next election. We have many people in office and they are paid well. 

This is a nation that needs integrity for healing. We are so divided along political lines and ethnicity is in there alive and kicking. This is a situation that only suits those who need numbers to retain power. Beyond the vote, other aspects of democracy: The Bill of rights and other freedoms can be toyed with. 

Currently, the President and his Deputy are standing trial at the International Criminal Court, ICC, for crimes against humanity. Crimes which some have tried to argue should not be politicised. That is to close eyes to the origin of the problem. The origin of this kind of species was a power struggle at election time. To say that Kenyans should try and not be political about the case is like saying you have just shaken hands with Snow Black and Seven Angels on a village path.  We wait to see what we learn then about leadership and integrity. Kenya's Parliament and Senate have passed a law to withdraw from the Rome Statute. 
Maybe we should climb Mount Kenya again and plant the tree of justice, and acknowledge that the mountain faces the people?

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