Opposition trapped in a time warp

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BY NDUNG’U WAINAINA

Kenya is in a critical situation of trying to consolidate a fragile transitional phase of the country from decades of authoritarianism and macabre violence, and the promulgation of new constitutional order that created the devolved system of governance. Concrete steps would be necessary in order to address solidly the deep-seated fragility, long-standing social political and economical grievances confronting the country, and re-evaluating the roles and functions of nascent constitutional social institutions that form the basis of securing political and social stability of the country in long run.

The Constitution of Kenya establishes a new era of democratic, ethical and transparent leadership, with an obligation to promoting democratic co-existence, societal tolerance of diversity and boosting trust in public institutions’ capacity to deliver public good and social repair. Further, the Constitution addresses itself to the malpractices in governance of the past. However, political corruption and disregard for the rule of law remains a serious barrier to implementing and enforcing the constitution, thus stalling the realisation of the dreams and aspirations of the people of Kenya.

The government and the opposition in Kenya must acknowledge that a growing democracy is that which involves constructive all-inclusive dialogue. Competitive policy-based politics are a good sign of a healthy democracy. It steers the country away from political, economic and social instability, moving towards security, greater prosperity and genuine democratic governance.

It is important for the government, opposition and social forces to recognise and understand that the future of a democratic secure Kenya as a strong cohesive country depends on respecting and upholding the Constitution. All actors need to acknowledge that building cohesive and functional democratic institutions is a process requiring restraint, inclusivity and sobriety.

Political leadership has the responsibility of genuinely propagating tolerance and nurturing a culture of diversity of human freedoms and rights where every Kenyan has an equal chance to realise potential and is protected by the law fairly.

After promulgating the progressive Constitution in 2010, it is time for the country’s leadership across the political divide and the multiplicity of stakeholders to be involved in investing in building sustainable peace and security in the country, securing policies that promote and support economic justice and equity, and sustaining the agenda of rooting for democracy, human rights and rule of law.

The right of the public to participate in governance and management of state affairs is a cardinal constitutional right that Kenyans can effectively invoke and deploy to evaluate government policy in between elections. The Constitution ushered constitutional participatory democracy – the democratic practice of continuous evaluation of government policy in between elections. Referendum is such a tool. It means people exercising their sovereignty to evaluate the appropriateness of government policy on institutions of governance, civil service inclusion, devolution, economy, national security, land reforms, foreign affairs, gender parity, human rights conditions and any other issue citizens deem necessary. Referendum is not necessarily about amending constitution; rather it is a political platform to galvanise alternative government policy.

Kenya’s Opposition is stuck in time warp. It organises, mobilises and conducts politics and governance policy in outdated model. With the current constitutional dispensation, the character of governance, politics and development effected a radical paradigm shift. The Opposition’s role is no longer the tradition of checking government. It is in full competition for policy, budgeting and legislation formulation and implementation with its competitors in government. Constitution was the game changer.

Drawing lessons from America’s presidential system, the correct assessment of the performance of the political opposition can only be based on how successfully the Opposition has been in pushing through the policy issues that it had outlined in its manifesto. Its manifesto did not become irrelevant after elections.

The governance crisis Kenya is facing is as a result of failure to enforce and implement the constitution faithfully. This would be the solid policy agenda for the Opposition – which ought to create a bridge between political actors and various communities through multi-countrywide institutionalised dialogue for stakeholders’, with a clear roadmap of sustainability, implementation and accountability to ensure the following critical constitutionally issues are fully and faithfully implemented.

One is the designing of a sustainable strategy to enforce governance accountability, ethics and transparency as provided for in the Constitution. This would see the raising of the bar on the performance, integrity and credibility of state institutions and public officials in the management of public affairs.

It would also concretely set firm solutions to high-level corruption in government and wastage of public resources, address exclusivist policy of appointments to civil service and security infrastructure as well as resolve the persistence manipulation and capture of constitutional independent institutions and offices.

Secondly, the country would agree on a solid strategy of a major overhaul, restructuring and transforming of broken dysfunctional and compromised security system organs – the National Intelligence Service, National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces – into professional rights-respecting institutions of governance that secure the country and safety of the people and protect constitutional democracy. Further strengthening civilian oversight institutions would be necessary to ensure security organs not only deliver on their mandate but also are held to account. It is also crucial for the country to establish a stable, predictable, impartial and credible justice and prosecutorial services.

Third, the dialogue would seek the deepening, resourcing and consolidating of the devolved system of governance and framing the pillars of development of the local economy so that the country can grow from all corners. This includes restructuring national governance and administrative agencies, including provincial administration, parastatals and corporations to rhyme with and respect devolution. This will also involve redefining the yardstick of sharing revenue and financial resources between national and county governments, including proper constitutional framework governing devolved funds to the county, and developing the capacity and facilities of devolved units and institutions to deliver their mandate effectively and efficiently.

Fourth is the redefining and formulating of new socio-economic policies that reflect new constitutional realities and global changes to effectively address the deteriorating social and economic material conditions of the people, unfavourable economic competition and business-unfriendly environment, building a sustainable secure environment, friendly to the livelihoods of the people, and tackling inequality. The current national economic and social policy must drastically change by way of reforming the socio-economic, taxation and fiscal policy. This would see county governments have a direct voice in national matters touching on the economy, finance, taxation and social development, to ensure the right policies are in place for sustainable county revenue base, and creating a conductive environment for business and investments in the counties.

Fifth, addressing comprehensively the land reforms and accessibility of land resources fairly by all citizens is a key pillar in transforming Kenya. This will also involve tackling the unsustainable, mostly peasant rural agricultural economy, building sustainable land tenure system and strengthening the National Land Commission.

Sixth, Kenya will not be able to compete effectively globally if the country does not bring major changes to its education and healthcare systems, to address long-standing imbalances, adopt modern technology, work towards competitiveness, and ensure high quality services, accessibility and affordability, with both bottom and top approaches.
Seventh is about agreeing and designing a well-grounded foreign policy framework that advances the country’s strategic trade, economic and security interests regionally and globally.

Finally, gender sensitive and unambiguous human rights policy remains elusive. It is thus imperative that a consensus is build on the implementation of the policy structural shifts necessary to realise the conditions for generational equity, gender equality and the fulfilment of human rights anticipated in the Constitution.

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