In Summary
  • The truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga presents the perfect opportunity for Kenyans to embark on a national conversation.

  • Mr Odinga’s push for an overhaul of the governance system to bring back the office of Prime Minister may be well-intentioned but it is like waving a red flag in front of Mr Ruto.

Most reasonable people would agree that this is as good a time as any to try and iron out the few chinks in the ‘new’ Constitution.

Deputy President William Ruto and others who opposed the transition to a progressive democratic constitutional order did, during the 2010 referendum point, out some flaws in the proposed document. The problem at the time was that they were more interested in sabotaging moves towards a clean break with the old totalitarian past.

Under such circumstances, an important constitutional moment could not be halted. The new document had to be passed, warts and all, on the same principle that the reactionary forces who wanted to delay Independence in 1963 could not have been allowed to have their way.

There was the implicit understanding, however, that after a reasonable period when the new Constitution had settled in, the document would be revisited. That time is now.

PROMULGATION

It’s going to eight years since the promulgation of the Constitution. Two general elections have been held under the new dispensation, devolution has been firmly entrenched and a raft of laws passed and institutions created to breathe life into the new order.

In the process, we have been able to clearly identify aspects of the brave new world that have not worked as expected — either because of weaknesses in the new Constitution or the familiar Kenyan refusal to do things by the book.

What we have gone through, particularly the unresolved contradictions in society that turn electoral contests into ethnic conflict, make it imperative that we conduct a sober self-introspection and move with haste to plug the leaks.

NATIONAL DIALOGUE

It is particularly important that this national dialogue and any desired constitutional amendments be concluded well before the 2022 General Election, for the obvious reason that a failure to correct things now will only leave us at risk of another orgy of electoral bloodletting that could make the 2007-2008 meltdown look like a kindergarten romp.

The truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga presents the perfect opportunity for Kenyans to embark on a national conversation. However, we are seeing also that expected dividends from the ‘handshake’ could turn out to be a mirage if the brave initiative is reduced to just a stage for premature jostling around the 2022 elections.

Mr Ruto, with an eye only on succeeding President Kenyatta, is clearly suspicious that the handshake may be used to craft a deal that undermines his State House prospects.

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