D-Day as Kenya Votes on New Constitution in Referendum
Standing at the queue holding my voters card and national identity card, I am set to have my final say on an issue that has dogged Kenya for more than twenty years now. It has been a journey that has been tremulous as it has been long. The venue is Umoja Primary school, on the East side of Kenya's Capitol- Nairobi. The weather is chilly, an indication of the extended cold season, strange conditions for most of us born and bred under the sunshine of the lands that hug the equator. Nonetheless, Kenyans of different creeds, colors and backgrounds have braved the weather as they have braved this long journey full of sweat, tears and even blood shed; all in search of a new constitutional dispensation. A new way that the governing will govern the citizenry, a new way in which the ruled will hold the rulers accountable, a new contract by which we the Kenyan people have agreed to live and work in this nation that was born some 47 years ago." It is time for the second liberation" many have termed this historical event in our nations history. Kenya is expectant again. The next 48hrs will tell if this delivery will be uncomplicated.
A short time line of Kenya's search for a New Constitution.
1964:: The last time Kenya had embarked on a new constitutional dispensation, the nation's founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the force behind the changes. It was in the year following independence,1964, and Kenya on the 1st of June that year became a republic with a central government and a presidential system.
1964-1982 :: A series of micro amendments sees an authoritarian presidency created, setting the stage for nepotism, tribalism and corruption to take root in Kenya.
1982 :: Following a failed coup-de-tat., Kenya's second president, Daniel Torotich Arap Moi, amended the constitution for an umpteenth time to create a single party state. The political scene of Kenya in the 1980's was fraught by numerous crack downs on political dissidents, including political assassinations, detentions including the yet to be resolved murder of foreign affairs minister Robert Ouko. Among the political detainees is current prime minister Raila Odinga.
1991 :: On December 3rd, President Moi finally gave in into local and international pressure and repealed section 2A of Kenya's constitution to allow for democratic change in the form of multiparty politics.
1992: Kenya holds it's first multiparty elections. President Moi triumphs but upon the background of a host of irregularities. The nation bleeds and burns as ethnic tensions boil over and tribal clashes erupt in parts of the country,
The clamor for a new constitution continues.....
1997 :: Kenya holds it's second multiparty elections. In the run up opposition rallies are violently dispersed by police leading to loss of limbs and lives. Most notable is the 'saba saba' ( Swahili for 7/7 denoting a series of rallies that had been happening every seventh of July agitating for constitutional change) rally at Uhuru park . The aftermath: President Moi wins again, the perennial hot-spots in the Rift Valley province and neighboring provinces are up in flames again.
1999 :: Two major events surrogate the continued clamor for a new constitutional dispensation in Kenya. A vocal Anglican cleric, Rev. Timothy Njoya, prayer meeting is disrupted as police strom into All Saints Cathedral. Under the full glare of cameras from local and international media houses, Rev Njoya pleads for his life as police rain on him with kicks and blows. The second event sees protesters who had tried to block the Budget speech outside parliament violently dispersed.
2000 :: January:- A body drawn from parliament and civic bodies, National Executive Council, leads a demonstration to Uhuru park in clamor for a new constitution. Yes, president Moi had set the way for constitutional change in Kenya, but there lacked any real political will.
2002 :: Kenya prematurely breathes a sigh of relief as the opposition unites to give President Moi's successor and protegee Uhuru Kenyatta [the son of the founding president] a resounding defeat at the polls. The liberators led led by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga promise heaven including a new constitution that was to be based on a pre election pact between the two.
2002-2005 :: Constitutional expert Yash Pal Ghai, people representatives and a host of experts draft what was to be known as the Bomas draft. It proposes a parliamentary system of governance, improves on human and people freedoms. This process is fraught by political battles, mistrust and carries the burden of the uneasy political marriage at the time. It is not long before this government of liberators is split down the middle. The cause? The contentious memorandum of association.
2005 :: Kenya holds its first referendum on a new constitution. Raila Odinga leads a major coup on the Kibaki government as the constitution is soundly defeated. Among the areas of schism is on devolution of power. The 'No" proponents assert that the draft is had been heavily amended by the attorney general to suit the sitting government. Behind the constitutional debates lie intense power plays between key political figures. The aftermath is that Kenya's long time nemesis, Tribalism, rears its head once again. Slowly the country is split into two blocks- the Kibaki friendly East, and the Raila friendlily West.
2007 :: Once political friends face off at the ballot box. Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. The result is inconclusive with claims of vote stealing and a host of malpractices. A stand off ensures as president Kibaki is controversially sworn in for his second term. Soon Kenya is engulfed in flames. The worst of tribal violence erupts. Thousands of lives lost, Billions of property destroyed, hundreds of thousands internally displaced. Tears, shame, sorrow, darkness descends on Kenya.
2008 :: February 28th, Internationally backed efforts see the violence ended as political deal is brooked by the international community . The coalition government formed by the two principals has a host of tasks that will see Kenya deal with it demons once and for all. Key among them is a new constitution.
2010 :: August 4th. I among the 12.8 million registered voters cast my vote. Prime minister Raila Odinga cast his shortly past 9:00 am at Kibera Primary School- Nairobi, President Kibaki cast his just past 10:00 am at Othaya primary school polling center in central Kenya.
The baby is due any time. Kenya eagerly awaits the new constitution. The midwife is the Interim Independent Electoral body that was formed in the coalition government era as part of the institutional changes that will see prosperity and peace prevail in Kenya for years to come.
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