KENYA SUMAKU

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Choosing the lesser evil: A dictatorial parliament or dictatorial presidency?

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on June 7, 2009

A few days ago, clergymen rediscovered their voices.They had been on long recess since the period prior to the infamous 2007 elections. As you may recall, they never found it necessary to say a thing about the shenanigans that preceded the incredible polls. They did not find it prudent to criticize the president for single-handedly selecting almost all ECK commissioners. Apparently the good clergy did not believe there was anything wrong there: It was not dictatorial. They did not even appeal to FM radio stations across the land which were spewing tribal venom before the polls to stop.They did not find a voice to castigate the misuse of Administration policemen for partisan interests, again because their dictatormeter could not register yet. They spoke feebly when the fighting was in full flight because they had earlier taken sides within the political set-up.

Now suddenly they have come out to strongly criticize parliament. Never mind that some of them have been loudly criticized for being very dictatorial within their churches! One easily recalls that recently, Cardinal Njue was taking the flak from his priests and parishioners in Nairobi who claimed he was very dictatorial.

There is a creeping suspicion that the motivation is not to save Kenya which is sliding into a “parliamentary dictatorship” in which members of Parliament play sovereign. Not by a wide margin! The statement is a thinly veiled defense of certain retrogressive partisan interests, which some people confuse to mean the same thing as the sovereign.

In the situation which obtains in Kenya, the Presidents and their handlers have come to believe that they have the license to act in whichever way they wish because they are above the law. Nay, they make the law. See how they create districts like njugu karanga mta do? So what is sovereignty anyway?

Sovereignty is commonly defined as the exclusive right to exercise, within a specific territory, the functions of a Nation-state and be answerable to no higher authority. The sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority. This must be a body which should be considered able and credible to act on behalf of the citizens of the country and create a sense of fairness which is a prerequisite to peaceful co-existence.

The strongest claim of the current Kenyan parliament to this role of sovereignty is the fact that parliamentary elections for 2007 were widely perceived to have been much more reliable than the Presidential polls. This is borne out by the fact that tallying was done and victors announced at the constituency level. There wasn’t much room for the ECK to manipulate the vote the way the Presidential vote was polluted at KICC. This is attested to by the paltry number of petition cases in the courts in relation to the parliamentary elections. The other piece of evidence that stands out is the discrepancies between the parliamentary votes and presidential votes. In most cases, the reported parliamentary voter turnout was more reliable than that of presidential voter turn out which was inflated.

Because the public is quite perceptive, they have not had a major quarrel with the legitimacy of the 10th parliament! Their main issue with the parliament has been to do with their monstrous appetite for perks. But again, is it not then the duty of the person assenting to bills, to refuse to accede to any bill that the government has no capacity to implement? How much more especially where money is concerned? It has been done in Botswana and elsewhere, so why not in Kenya? Has the executive even disciplined senior civil servants who are individuals and government employees but equally profligate if not more?

It is for these and other such reasons that one may be inclined to support a more assertive parliament at the expense of the presidency. The presidency is run by fiat, through agents who are not elected and who do not answer to the citizens. In the recent past, the head of civil service has purported to define what the duties of members of the executive are. One may ask, where did the civil service head get the power to allocate duties to the vice president, prime minister, deputy prime ministers and so on? How did he get into a position of determining the salaries of these offices? He is not elected and cannot be answerable for delivery or non-delivery of services to Kenyans. He has no other role than to protect certain narrow interests… And all that in the name of the executive!

If we had to make a choice between an executive/civil service dictatorship and a parliamentary dictatorship, we should promptly pick the parliamentary one because we can at least vote them out when they misbehave. But when civil servants misbehave, they do so on behalf of certain politicians, who then egg them on to use state machinery to rig elections. Once elections get rigged, the same civil servants are recycled back into office to keep an eye on the fort. That is why we have so many civil servants who have gone far beyond their sale by date in Kenya.

So, yes. Give me parliamentary dictatorship any time, because I can deal with it, and the likelihood of getting better scrutiny due to the presence of a few good ones is higher.

As for the clergy, please go and put your houses in order first. Then we shall listen to you. As for now, you come across as a front for deeply tribal interests which are inimical to the existence of Kenya.

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