Friday, November 08, 2013

Seize the opportunity, Mr President.

It is really a bad idea for a public institution to take on another public institution in the name of political supremacy, especially when neither enjoys legitimacy. Tony Gachoka, while appearing on KTN's Jeff Koinange Live, stated that the President, elected with over 50% + 1 vote has a mandate to govern while Parliament plays the role of oversight.

This is the presidential system that we gifted ourselves when we promulgated a Constitution in 2010. The American system we attempted to copy is now slowly being implemented. The National Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary check each other and balance the exercise of each others' powers. It is why the National Assembly was right to censure the Cabinet Secretary for Lands without the President rejecting the motion. What the President does next is vital. If he accepts that the oversight if his government lies with the National Assembly in this matter, he has no choice but to ask for the Secretary's resignation. If he rejects the power of the National Assembly to pass the motion, he has no choice but to take the matter to the High Court for the proper interpretation of the Constitution.

The President, even when he was a lowly Member of Parliament, believes in the power of institutions established by law. Despite the vitriol visited on him by the civil society industry and, lately, the media, he has always relied on public institutions to resolve disputes he has had with others. A case in point is when he approached the Media Council when his name was dragged in the mud by a media house. He could have sued; he could have asked for a hostile act from a government that he served. Instead, he brought the dispute to the Media Council, a public institution, and the matter was handled as it should have.

Mr Kenyatta is the head of his party, being the senior-most politician in the government of which his party is a vital member. He is the head of the coalition that formed his government. He must be disappointed that the men and women who give his government legitimacy are acting in patently illegitimate ways. Mr Kenyatta has not challenged the power of his parliamentary coalition, or indeed Parliament, to make laws. But this power should be exercised judiciously. There must be a plan - the party manifesto, perhaps - by which this power is exercised.

A casual perusal of the Jubilee coalition's manifesto does not reveal a need to muzzle the press or control the media, save in the broadest of terms. While the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2013, might have been inherited from the Kibaki government, it was necessary that the Kenyatta government reviewed its key provisions before allowing the Bill to be sent to the National Assembly. Mr Kenyatta now has an opportunity to revisit the Bill, taking into account the protests it has elicited in recent weeks, and send it back to Parliament if he is convinced that the Bill fails the constitutional freedoms test.

This blogger believes that Mr Kenyatta's government is in danger of becoming ineffectual because of the problems being experienced by his Cabinet in the execution of their duties and the wrongful interpretation of the Constitution by his parliamentary coalition. The Majority Leaders in both chambers have proven to be woeful generals of the parliamentary army. Cabinet Secretaries lack the requisite public communication skills and strategies to educate and inform the public of the jubilee government's agenda. If Mr Kenyatta's government is to cease lurching from one crisis to another, he must seize the opportunity to streamline the business of his government.

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