By Paddy Karanja
Late last year, EACC chief executive Halakhe Waqo handed to the speaker of the National assembly Justin Muturi an investigative report which revealed corrupt practices and misuse of parliamentary privileges by members of the August House.
According to the report MPs were found to have made fictitious mileage claims and connived in earning underserved sitting allowances. At that time Muturi concurred with the report and promised that change was going to take place to ensure accountability. After a fortnight, however, when the report was to be tabled in the house, MPs threatened to impeach the Speaker who backed down.
Our fledgling democracy is under real threat, and the schemers of its annihilation are oblivious of the same. They instead camouflage as voices of reason riding on the popular rhetoric of a better Kenya, discrediting everything being done by others. Yet the motivation of their actions is that of self aggrandisement and greed for power and quick money.
The representatives whom we have entrusted with the custody of this democracy have become wolves in the sheep’s clothing. It is no longer about “Wanjiku”, when they get to Parliament. The convictions and the values of good governance change very fast, especially at the view of the window through which I see the proceeds of national coffers. We have an assembly that has abused its powers with unfettered frequency and impunity, and has not held those powers and privileges on behalf of “Wanjiku” as envisaged by the law.
MPs have blatantly refused to be accountable and to be asked questions of integrity yet they sit in committees to vet others on integrity. It is as if they have a divine right and absolute power to do with us as they please. It is a tragedy indeed.
The chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Samuel Chepkonga stood in the house and asserted that EACC cannot be allowed to disparage members of the House by reporting on their misconduct (Citizen TV). According to him, telling MPs to live right as far as public resources are concerned is in itself disparaging (how terminologies change when they don’t favour one).
Members resolved to shake the EACC again like the way they did with Patrick Lumumba, and send Halakhe home for doing his job. It is all very unfortunate that the institution we created to guard us against exploitation by rogue elites is at the mercy of a rogue legislature, one devoid of credibility. The House has no moral authority to pass any law if it cannot be accountable on its powers and obey the existing law of the land. MPs have been on the rampage punishing organs of government that rub them the wrong way for demanding accountability.
On December 19 last year, Kuppet Secretary-General Akello Misori, was quoted in the Standard newspapers as saying that the union would lobby Parliament to dismantle constitutional commissions that stood in the way of teachers’ demands for higher pay.
From these accounts, it is very evident that those who hold power, including teachers – who are now a semi-elite group – have embraced a culture of impunity to the extent that they cannot withstand dictates of the Constitution when the latter does not favour them. Teachers, like MPs, have demonstrated that the Constitution is only supreme when it speaks to their desires, even when the greater public interest is at stake. They have transformed their representative organs into rogue entities which advocate for the rule of the jungle to get what they want at the expense of the public.
Kenyans passed the constitution in the hope that it would liberate them from bad governance, misrule and exploitation by the elites through plundering of national resources, a practice that for a long time had condemned our children and successive generations to poverty and misery.
The Constitution and its wise drafters recognised that man is greedy, selfish and can easily relapse to the state of nature idealised by Thomas Hobbes, in the absence of the rule of law. In preventing this scenario in a country where resources are scarce, it established structures to control this wayward behaviour at all levels of power, a behaviour which would otherwise deny the larger public its social and economic rights.
Constitutional commissions are a power regulator. They mediate power relations between the more powerful and the less powerful. They are the only hope for an equitable and just society which majority of Kenyans crave for. A commission that stops the Legislature from awarding itself outrageous salaries is the saviour of the tax payer. A commission that regulates and harmonises the public wage bill, restricting some organs of government from overburdening Kenyans and slicing huge chunks of the national cake at the expense of others is the only hope in administering equity and recovering money to fund widespread development.
It looks like teachers have found like minds in the members of parliament in advocating for the rule of the jungle when it comes to salaries, by conniving to dismantle institutions and plunder the economy as they wish. It is worrying, looking at the confidence exuded by the teachers’ body in pursuing this line.
We must accept the character of the law and cultivate a culture of stability and consistency, a generation whose word matches with action. We need to discard a mentality and mindset such as that exhibited by the likes of Alfred Keter, they of conflicting accountabilities. This crop of leaders believes that we can set the law aside when it offends us because “we made it, after all”. Yet we proclaim respect and obedience to the same law when we seek to take away a job from someone we hate; acting as mercenaries for hire. This selective application of, and allegiance to, the law is a dangerous cancer to this country.
The Constitution we passed so overwhelmingly, and with such enthusiasm, has suddenly become a bad document. Those who championed for it are the same ones who want it changed. It can only be argued and legitimately so, that the prevailing political arrangements have denied them the opportunity to exploit the same constitution for their selfish gains. We can accurately hypothesise that were they to be in an expedient position, definitely they wouldn’t demand for any changes.
The country is relapsing into a sorry state, where we profess the rule of law when, and only when, it favours our desires; it is not worth our allegiance when it blocks us. That is not the intent of a constitution. A constitution is a two edged sword, it provides and denies in order to create equity and fairness.
Sad though, is the fact that the proponents of constitutional amendment are the same politicians who are plundering our resources. We have been told more money is required in the counties, yet the little the counties have received has been characterised by wanton corruption and wastage. So why do these proponents want money to counties? Probably that’s where there exist loopholes to plunder more. Have the counties become accountable enough to warrant any increase? It is an assertive no.
There is imminent danger and conspiracy to deny national government the resources crucial for national projects as a way of weakening the office of the President, and to balkanise the nation along ethnic lines for political expediency. Weakening the presidency because a certain individual does not occupy the office is missing the point and being myopic.
We need a sense of nationhood for us to survive; the presidency is that pillar of our oneness and we need to support its functions. People have been mesmerised by the county government powers such that some are imaging of their own territorial integrity. The unsavoury vocabulary of our “people”, our “resources” and our “county” is increasingly gaining momentum, precipitating an aura of ethnic isolation and sectarian ideologies.
The Constitution is our guardian; individuals will come and go, and we must not let politicians only to guide this amendment debate; they should not be the ones to determine the wrongs and rights in the law. “Wanjiku” must raise worthy and genuine spokespersons to steer this debate. Civil society organs must be at the centre of the envisaged referendum.
The truth is that the populace is becoming desperate; it has been betrayed by the representatives in Parliament. These custodians of our democracy are raping it left, right and centre. The corruption in government ministries looks like a revenge mission on the impunity of Parliament. Workers in the service argue “if parliament is doing it and getting away scot free, why can’t we?”
For how long will this democracy stand and for whose benefit?