Constitutional Democracy in Kenya.

Future of Democracy in Kenya.

Dear Friends.

I must admit that with this post I will be delving into a world which I have so far resisted to make comment on given the plethora of blogs and opinions circulating on the web about it. Many of us are familiar with the horror of the Post Election Violence in Kenya otherwise known as PEV in short.

First things first we need to ask afew questions and define some terms. Is Kenya a democracy? What is a democracy? What is a constitutional democracy? What is the future for Kenya? What are the possible solutions and what scenarios should we be looking at?

Let’s begin with defining democracy. According to the wikipedia defination. Democracy is a form of government in which state-power is held by the majority of citizens within a country or a state. It is derived from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía), “popular government”, which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos), “people” and κράτος (krátos), “rule, strength” in the middle of the fifth-fourth century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.

Secondly what is a constitutional democracy? A constitutional democracy is a government under law in which coalition and majority rule is balanced by minority and individual rights, and in which most rights are balanced by responsibilities – including the responsibility of each citizen to study the history of constitutional government in order to illuminate it in ways that no definition ever can … and in order, thereby, to allow it to evolve further in light of ancient wisdoms and the needs of our evolving global civilization.

Finally is Kenya a democracy? In my humble opinion yes. State power is held by Kenyans, not Europeans, Americans, Chinese or Ugandans. Is Kenya a constitutional democracy? Again yes. Why you ask? We have a constitution for one. We also have elections every 5 years, a relatively free press, with completely unfettered freedom of expression. Do we have a perfect democracy? Absolutely not. Is there a country with perfect democracy? Absolutely not.

Is democracy a universal concept? Yes and no. Why? Well because in the words of King Hussein of Jordan, “democracy means different things to different people”. What one may consider democracy may be viewed as tyranny to another. Let me give some examples. 

In western Europe some people believe that democracy is allowing gay marriage, euthanasia, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, legalisation of marijuana and legal prostitution. To other people banning immigration, reducing taxes, banning pornography and abolishing social welfare constitute democracy.

During the PEV fiasco in Kenya a friend wrote to me from the States fuming that the elections had been stolen. He even invoked the name of God. One phrase was outstanding he stated thus “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. At the time it was called a disputed election meaning that due to the closeness of the results either of the two parties could claim victory. I referred him to the disputed election in the states between Al Gore and George Bush. No one I believe was killed in that fiasco. Instead people counted, recounted and went to court and eventually based on the partisan nature of the Supreme Court a winner was declared.

However lets examine his comment more closely. If a majority of people decide to kill defenceless babies while still in the womb in contradiction of the commandment that states “thou shall not kill”, are they still the voice of God? When they kill someone because he is kikuyu, luo or kalenjin are they still the voice of God?

Another question. Does Kenya and North Korea or China have the same level of democracy? In Saudi Arabia a woman cannot drive or wear a mini-skirt, and in Libya you cannot publish disparaging remarks about Muammar Gaddafi. Whereas in Kenya you can surf the internet freely you cant query the word freedom or democracy from google in China. So in some respects Kenya has a very high form of freedom.

The current Constitution of Kenya forbids murder, corruption, rape, looting e.t.c. Will a new constitution with stronger language mean the end of corruption, murder, rape e.t.c? Whereas I support reforming or rewriting our constitution I think the problem lies elsewhere. The problem lies with reforming our individual and collective psyche or conscience as a nation. In other words we must have new ethical rules that govern our conscience as individuals and then as a society. Corruption is not limited to our leaders only, it is endemic in our society and we shouldn’t be too shocked when we see it practised publicly.

So what is our future strategy? Well I think it is inevitable that a new constitution will be passed in Kenya. Will it have a purely parliamentary style of government or will it have a hybrid Presidential/parliamentary system? Is one superior to the other? Will kadhi’s courts be included in the constitution though muslims comprise only 10% of the population? Will we allow abortion and gay marriage because the west thinks that is democracy? The answer again lies with us as a people and what we cherish as fundamental values of society.

In the defination of constitutional democracy something stood out, “the responsibility of every citizen to study it’s history and illuminate it in ways no defination can”. This means that Kenyans will have to study their political history, evaluate their aspirations as a society and reach a compromise on what political system they want. To do this however is easier said than done. On the issue of constitution making for example I think it is not possible for pure democracy to work. The US constitution was written by a small group of farmers who stuck to some fundamental ideals.

Finally being a technology enthusiast I have to recommend to the government to introduce digital voting using biometric ID’s. Introduce a digitized judicial system (e-justice) to reduce corruption and in the constitution making introduce a digital online questionnaire taking advantage of cellphones that asks citizens to give their views based on the European profiler concept.

My considered opinion is that Kenya is a very developed democracy by African standards. What we have is a management problem. Many Kenyans will be pleased to know that Kenya during the Kibaki administration has built or commenced more infrastructure projects than in the last 40years combined. We have also reformed business to a very large extent. KRA tax returns can now be done online and telecommunications have been fully liberalized. Even as we debate our political system we must never lose sight of our economic sphere. I believe that political systems can take a long time to perfect but they are made easier to do with a more educated and economically prosperous society. If you were to ask many Kenyans to make a choice between wearing a miniskirt as opposed to having food to eat and good health it’s obvious what they would go for. If you asked to make a choice between great economic prosperity as opposed to finding freedom and democracy queries on the internet it’s obvious what many would choose.




2 Responses so far »

  1. 2

    Kenyan Music said,

    When debating on the fate of Kenya, people tend to lose sight of the simple fact that Kenya is actually a young country experiencing growing pains. We need to be a bit more patient when waiting for the country to mature

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