Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) knew a thing or two about politics. At the height of the Cold War, when the Americans were negotiating the Strategic Arms reduction Talks (START) and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), Reagan stated that one had to trust but verify the results of that trust. Mutula Kilonzo (ODM-K, Mbooni and Minister for Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion), wants to rush the process of implementing the Constitution. I say: Trust but Verify!
I very rarely agree with Donald B. Kipkorir, but he is right that we cannot sit idly by as the politicians run away with the process. The Constitution gives us the opportunity and the right to participate in the process. The record of activities where the politicians have taken the lead has been a disappointing one, to say the least. In the absence of strong political parties and with their penchant for 'regional balancing', whatever they do tends to have the whiff of compromise and political horse-trading around it. This is the system that we seek to dismantle and bring about a re-awakening of the Kenyan political spirit, one that was last seen in the dying days of the FORD movement of the 1990s. If we are to have a successful implementation of this Constitution, we must ensure that the process is not left in the exclusive hands of a cabal that has done its best over the years to take care of their interests at the expense of ours. In the absence of a credible civil society movement, it is left to the Mwalimu Matis, Donald B Kipkorirs, and Timothy Njoyas to keep the politicians honest. However, this does not mean that we sit back and relax: we must re-examine why and how we participate in the political process and take the required steps to become full partners in the implementation of the Constitution.
Our apathy as a nation permits us to blame the state for all that ails us. In the old order it was OK to state that opportunities were denied to the citizenry when it came to political participation. This excuse is no longer tenable. The Constitution places an onerous obligation on the citizenry to educate itself on its contents and to take its rightful place in its implementation. In the coming years, the National Assembly shall make laws in regard to the Land Chapter, Devolution and the Recall of Parliamentarians and Members of County Assemblies. We must ensure that the Bills that get debated in Parliament reflect our desires. It should not be that Mutula Kilonzo and his pals in the Parliamentary Select Committees drive the process with a view to protecting their interests alone. If he does so, we must challenge him at every step. It would otherwise be business as usual and we will have ourselves to blame if the politicians fuck up this process.
We must, therefore, take Hon. Kilonzo's plan to rush to Parliament Bills on the implementation in the absence of the Constitutional Implementation Commission or the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee very seriously as he will be operating without the scrutiny or oversight of two very crucial public institutions. This would be his opportunity to ensure that our priorities are given short shrift. I must point out though, that the Minister has proven himself a man in search of a destiny too. The way he shepherded the Constitution through its final stages was inspiring. He showed that it was possible for a politician to put the nation before the individual and he should be lauded for it. This does not mean that we should give him a free pass, but that we should ensure that he does not stray from the path he has followed since he became the Minister for Justice. The same should go for the Principals. Just because they oversaw the successful referendum campaign and saw to it that the process largely remained peaceful should not blind us to the fact that in the past they have sometimes taken us for granted and acted without the proper consultation required of leaders in their positions. President Kibaki is set to retire in 2012 and Prime Minister Odinga would like to succeed him as Head of State. The president may be tempted to monkey around with the succession, to the extent that he may wish to engineer a set of implementation laws that would benefit his yet-to-be-named successor. Prime Minister Odinga and his competitors would also like to monkey around with the implementation process to give themselves advantages where none are anticipated. This is why we should keep an eagle eye on them to ensure that they play by the rules.
The up-coming by-elections in Makadara, Starehe and Juja give an insight to the thinking and intentions of the various party leaders. They have all decided to give direct nominations to their preferred candidates. This is in direct contravention of the various parties' constitutions and an indicator of how they see the rules in relation to their political contests. If this is their idea of 'playing by the rules', it is even more imperative that we be extra vigilant for they still seem to operate with the same mindsets that got us into trouble in the first place. This Constitution is too important to be left to politicians and they need to be reminded time and again that they are not gods, but mere mortals who must answer to us for all that they do. So, over the coming weeks, we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that when they act, they act in the national interest and when they don't, we call them on it as forcefully as we can. Trust, but verify!