Monday, August 26, 2013

Amendments are political. Deal with it.

This blogger has argued in the past that Kenya is not benighted because of politics but because of its politicians. It is why this blogger is disappointed by the calls not to politicise the Constitutional Amendment Question that is abroad in the land today. No less an authority than the Daily Nation begs Kenyans not to politicise the issue. With all due respect those asking for the elimination of politics from the Constitution Amendment Question are wrong.

The Constitution is a political document; the process of amending it is necessarily political. Into this mix it would be near impossible to amend it without the participation of politicians. Indeed, the men and women likely to lead the process of amending the Constitution are politicians. Of course the Constitution is not just political; it is also a moral, social and an economic document. It is the principle tool for the organisation of our lives, our relationships and our government. If there are flaws in the document, these flaws must be ironed out through the only process available for the resolution of political, moral, social and economic problems: the political process.

How do those asking for the elimination of politics from the process propose that the Constitution be amended? Perhaps they think that an external institution can do the job for us. This line of thinking is dangerously flawed. Kenyans did not trust its politicians in 2008 to spearhead the drafting of a new Constitution. It is why they placed great hope in the Committee of Experts. This was a direct consequence of the betrayal by politicians after the Bomas process. If it had not been for Bomas, and the fallout among the principle players in the NARC administration, there would have been a different outcome after the 2005 referendum.

The Committee of Experts did the best they could with the flawed drafts they were working with. But at the end of the day, the final arbiter of what was to be presented to Kenyans was the least trusted body in Kenya: the Tenth Parliament. Unless you have been living on Mars, you must recall the fraught and poisonous political negotiations that ensued among the members of the Tenth Parliament. Key provisions that would have kept the political class on the straight and narrow were bastardised. Look at the original drafts of what became Articles 10 and Chapter 6 and you get an idea. But there was no alternative and Kenyans, as they always do, allowed the political class place pride of place in the negotiations and followed it blindly down every dead end on the way to the 2010 referendum.

We have a young Constitution but we still retain the political process that we have always had. Its membership consists of snake-oil salesmen and charlatans of all shades and stripes. They have done everything in their power to bastardise the concept of the sovereignty of Kenyans in order, once more, to guarantee pride of place for themselves. Regardless of their personal probity and popularity, politicians are a much-distrusted and much-loathed class. Despite this, they are the only ones who can lead the Constitutional Amendment Process, which means the process must be a political process.

This does not mean that they have a free hand to do as they please. The hands-off Kenyans who sit on their hand while the process is abused must get off their asses and get involved. It is not enough for the Daily Nation and its ilk to wring their hands and bemoan the politicisation of the process; they must get their hands dirty and engage the politicians in a political debate about the future of the nation. Whatever decision we make will be a political one; it is imperative we marshal political arguments that are more persuasive than those advanced by that perfidious, iniquitous and untrustworthy group.

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