Monday, June 28, 2010

Are we there yet?

We have entered the middle-period in the Referendum Campaigns. The mood is lazy and the campaigns are merely getting by on soundbites. We seem to be waiting for a spark to rejuvenate the campaigns and send a message that the Referendum is worth something. The lines are drawn and no one is in doubt where their 'leader' stands on the proposed draft, whether he has read it or not.

When you see the President and Prime Minister on Prime Time News, you get the sense that their campaign is flagging, hence the need to pack the dais with as many waheshimiwas as possible. It is the same with the Ruto Insurgency - it no longer has the novelty it enjoyed a month ago and it seems that the strange bed-fellowship between the politicians and the clergy is a bad marriage that will be annulled come August 5th.

Mzalendo Kibunja's outfit has somehow managed to enliven the proceedings, but not by much. President Moi and Maina Njenga seem to be getting by on opposite sides of the fence, with nary a bad word between them. This is not like the 2007 Campaigns; there is no life in this game. The passion is gone, and the only wingnuts still in it to win it are to be found on Facebook.

The debate has boiled down to those who are for the draft support abortion, 'elevation of Islam', and instability. Those against it are for the status quo, and are anti-reformists. What we need is a better narrative. What if the campaigners declared that this was their trial run for the 2012 elections. Then we could fid out how good they could be when Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula, and other small fries stated their positions unequivocally and declared the status of their sundry alliances. Make no mistake about it - 2012 is between Raila Odinga and someone else, perhaps a Ruto-led alliance or a Kalonzo divide-and-win strategy, or a money-fuelled charismatic Uhuru challenge. August 4th couldn't come soon enough.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Barking at the Moon

The spectre of religious intolerance is looming large over this nation. The rhetoric that has been deployed by my Christian co-religionists against the Kadhis' Courts seeks to conflate the entrenchment of the courts in the current constitution and the Proposed Constitution with the rubric of equality and separation of religion and state. This is a false argument and it must be challenged by all civilised peoples in Kenya.

For there to be equality as the Christian clergy demand, they must be able to prove that the entrenchment of these courts has had adverse effects on the enjoyment of their rights as Christians, and not merely the fact that there are no similar courts specifically designed for the Christians in the constitution is unequal or is evidence of unequal treatment by the State.

When the 25 bishops and their lawyers won their case in the High Court, it seemed as if they had finally managed to persuade the majority of Kenyans that indeed the courts were proof positive of discrimination against them and that the continued existence of these courts in the constitution constituted a continuing denial of their fundamental right to equal treatment by the State. However, a closer examination of the substance of the High Court judgment lays bare the lack of any judicious reasoning. The judgment was further proof that the judiciary is in dire need of reform and that the sooner that this is accomplished the better it will be for all those who seek justice in the hallowed corridors of the law courts.

However, while it is understandable that the judiciary would seek to stamp their authority on their right to read and interpret the constitution, the goings on outside the courts have laid bare the fact that the aim of the litigants in this matter was to perpetuate their unwarranted attack on my Muslim brethren by other means. They have managed to deploy events that have taken place in this country to indicate the extent to which Kenyans in general, and Christians in particular, are under threat from some Muslim conspiracy to Islamicise this nation.

Sunday after Sunday the leaders of the Evangelical and Pentecostal branches of Christianity in Kenya have sought to paint Muslims in a dim light. The core business of moral and spiritual upliftment of the congregation has been subsumed by this deep-seated desire to re-write history and proclaim this country a Christian nation at the expense of national cohesion or integration. It does not occur to them that their argument that they are not against the Kadhis' Courts per se, but only wish to be treated equally under the law is both wrong and misguided. The argument that these courts are a 'parallel' system is wrong-headed and meant to poison the atmosphere against the Muslims. Explanations that the Muslims' access to these courts only relate to matters of personal status have fallen on deaf ears with the result that it is now feared that there is a majoritarian conspiracy to deny Muslims in Kenya rights they have enjoyed since before the colonisation of this country.

There are many challenges facing this country, especially when it comes to the area of political discourse, political organisation and participation, governance and distribution of national resources for development. This loud preoccupation with the Kadhis' Courts has blinded us to the very real problems associated with the Constitution of Kenya as it stands today. Many Kenyans were too young to appreciate the enormous powers that the presidency has enjoyed since 1963, and the ever increasing grasp of the State when it comes to the enjoyment of individual rights. Just the yesterday a police man who was shown to clearly have acted in excess of his authority in the suppression of a riot was acquitted by the High Court in Kisumu. This is a pattern that can be discerned clearly throughout Independent Kenya's history: the assassinations of Tom Mboya, J M Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto and Robert Ouko have remained unsolved; the land barons of Kenya have remained untouchable for as long as they have existed; the financial scandals that have bedevilled us have been perpetrated since Independence. These ills and many others can be laid at the feet of this distorted constitution and the Kadhis' Courts have been used as a basis to hoodwink Kenyans that all their problems can be laid at the feet of the Kadhis' Courts.

It is sad that Kenyans do not have the capacity or will to face their real problems with their eyes wide open. It is sad that Kenyans have been misled for decades by their political leaders who have striven to paint a distorted picture of the reality of their laws and their government. It is now becoming increasingly apparent that our leaders, both temporal and spiritual do not want or unwilling to educate Kenyans honestly about the need for a new beginning. Not even the leading lights of the YES campaign have framed their debate in terms that reveal the complete and utter inadequacy of the current constitution. This role is left to a few voices in the desert and they have been undermined at every turn. Some of them have even been co-opted into the Establishment and have abdicated their duty to tell truth to power. As a result, our public discourse revolves around personalities and issues of little national consequence as the Kadhis' Courts and abortion.

The Balkanisation of Kenya began way before the first African was elected to parliament. It has been perpetrated since Independence with no respite. Kenyans are now so clearly wedded to the idea that their tribe is supreme that any other project will fail before this fundamental bugbear is addressed. None of our current leaders is capable of honestly grasping this nettle and speaking the truth. It is feared that such truth talking will lead this country down a road to instability and chaos, perhaps even violence. But this fear should not stop us fro attempting to have an honest debate over these questions with the aim of uniting this country once and for all around core principles of good governance and equitable treatment of all peoples, regardless of their ethnicity or creed. Even if the Proposed Constitution receives overwhelming support, without an honest reckoning of our failings, it will remain a piece of paper to be fought over by the elites of this country to the eternal detriment of the majority. The only solution is an honest debate on all these questions, an awakening of our political, moral and spiritual senses and an acknowledgement that we have treated each other shabbily since 1963 and that we must change if we are to achieve all our national goals and objectives. Anything less, and we will simply be whistling in the wind and barking at the moon like wild dogs.

They all fall, eventually

The member of the National Assembly for Mumias East is a spectacularly unpleasant character. But he is not unique. A former member of the Na...