Sunday, July 16, 2023

Footnotes of history

One of the things that define a rule-of-law jurisdiction is whether the people who purport to champion the rule of law respect the principles that undergird the rule of law. For example, in Kenya, the constitution explicitly limits the number of terms a person may serve as president of Kenya to two. It doesn't matter if the presidencies are consecutive or separated by the presidential terms, the limit is two. The principal that laid the foundation for this limitation was one that was intended to inject fresh blood into political and administrative institutions. It is replicated in many written laws that establish public institutions such as the leadership bodies of state corporations; board members get a maximum of two terms.

This principle was promoted by many of the stalwarts of the Second Liberation Movement. They stuck to their guns when the issue came before the Bomas Conference. The principle survived the Bomas Constitution, the Ghai Draft, the Kilifi draft, and the Harmonised draft. It was, therefore, surprising to see that the proponents of the principle didn't;t believe it strongly enough when it came to institutions (albeit "private" ones) in which they served in leadership positions. It would take the concerted efforts of "stakeholders" to push them out even after to had long been apparent that they no longer adhered to the wider principles of the institutions and they had, instead, become albatrosses around the institutions' metaphorical necks.

One of these people, long in the tooth, has taken to "public intellectual" fulminations. His hypocrisies are no longer amusing, particularly as he purports to establish moral codes that he does not abide by. He has arrogated on himself an intellectual authority that relies, mostly, on his academic scholarship, and less on any public acknowledgement of its existence or legitimacy. On the basis of that academic scholarship, and a once celebrated leadership of public political discourse of years past, he continues to excuse himself form the restrictions of the moral code he purports to impose on others. His hypocrisy blinds him to the ridiculousness of his fulminations.

I return to the analogy of the rule of law. One of its core tenets is that even in corrupted judicial frameworks, the only recourse to legal disputations is to bring the matter before a judge. Even if the litigation proves to be futile, to serves the higher principle of respecting political and constitutional institutions. Secondarily, it establishes a written record for posterity. When Mr. Justice Riaga Omollo, judge of the Court of Appeal, was removed from office, his removal was founded, in part, on the written judicial record where he had exposed his constitutional shortcomings. No appellate court seriously entertained his pleas for reinstatement. The written record condemned him and he remains condemned to this date.

But our friend abjures the written record if he is not the one doing the writing. He wishes to write his own, and his benefactor's, history in a positive and heroic light. He fell into the same trap that African presidents-for-life fell into: the desire to manage their own legacies, forgetting that when they are dead and gone, the citizens will remember them as they were supposed to be remembered. In the United Republic of Tanzania, even the men and women who were bitterly disappointed by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's political leadership remember him in a heroic light because, even with his weaknesses, he led his nation with his peoples' needs in mind.

Our friend, a man who no longer believes the things he says he stands for, has allied himself with liars, cheats and thieves in service to a man who has also abandoned the principles that made him a hero of the Second Liberation. Our friend refused to condemn the leaders of his movement when they engaged in crass nepotism. He refused to take a stand when they allied themselves with the leader of a murderous political regime that had killed his own compadres. Our friend has lost what little moral authority he ever held. It is fitting that another hypocrite revels in ridiculing him on social media. In the end, when the annals of history are written, our friend might merit a footnote of derision. If he is lucky.

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