By Joy Mdivo
I said it before and I shall say it again, Kenyans passed a new constitution that did away with the notion of one man becoming a dictator, and instead exchanged it with a dictatorship by 350 people, namely, members of the National Assembly. This is particularly worse in my opinion, because there is only so much guilt one person can handle before his conscience kicks in, or his heart stops beating. Whichever way, once that one changes his mind or his ways, we are saved. However, 350 people act like a mob. Anyone knows if one dog attacks you, chances of you subduing him are high. If a pack of two or more dogs attack you, find a tree and stay up there. The pack mentality means, the timid ones feed off the energy of the high strung ones. Those high strung ones get buoyed by the fact that the others are enamoured by them, and so showmanship takes over. The evil ones, camouflage themselves in the argument, and advance their evil schemes hijacking the process to achieve their own malevolent ends.
We are to have a National Assembly with 350 members. The recurrent expenditure is so high, that we are now faced with a real dilemma. Seeing as Parliament has been left with all the major cards, of making budgets, approving expenditure, vetting Presidential appointments and other such things, no Parliament quite simply means no Government. This muscle is what they are flexing, trying to force the rest of us to starve so that they may eat. They don't want a piece of the cake, they want the whole of it! The hapless Senate is left to make protestations and try to assert their authority. They then come to the realisation, they were given the car, the keys, a full tank, but the wheels were taken off. They seem like they have work to do, but they are all dressed up with nowhere to go. One member of the National Assembly even said "if the Senators have nothing to do, let them talk nicely to us, we will find them something to do!" That was the weakness in our constitution making process in 2010. The people responsible for making it happen, were themselves direct stakeholders in the same, and they took care of their interests to the exclusion of all others.
Chapter 8 of the Constitution establishes our Bi-Cameral House. Article 97 sets out that we shall elect 290 MPs, 47 Women, 12 Special interest nominees and the Speaker. Let us see what this means for Kenyans. Already, the recent salary increase clamour for Teachers has meant that some projects will have to be scaled down, or shelved altogether, maybe the laptop project, maybe not. There is also the possibility of tax increases to cover the same. There are rumours of the re-tabling of the VAT Bill, and other means of Uncle Sam getting his pound of flesh. Never mind we lose one third of our GDP to corruption and wasteful spending. Now, in a situation where we have 350 Members of Parliament, it means current estimates of Kes 4 billion per year in salaries and allowances will go up. Put this more accurately, that is more for office space, drivers, secretaries, security detail, offices, fresh flowers and all the Daily Newspapers delivered as of right to the new Constituencied and Constituency-less Waheshimiwa. It does not take/require a genius to see that we cannot afford this, and more importantly, we do not want this. So where do we go from here?
The New Constitution has tried to make the Executive lean and efficient by even prescribing the maximum number of Ministries the President must work with. The intention therefore of Kenyans is not to have a larger Parliament, but to have a more representative one. The 10th Parliament was not famous for being sufficiently philanthropic to the ordinary Mwananchi's plight, and apparently, neither is the 11th parliament. On this one, our hero must be an outsider. Like Zorro did for the villagers in the movie, we may need an intervention so radical that will achieve what we want notwithstanding the members of the 11th Parliament and their machinations.
My suggestion to get out of this quagmire is simply this. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should use its powers to delineate the Constituency to be synonymous in size with the County. Under the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act No 9 of 2011, Section 4(c)
4. As provided for by Article 88(4) of the Constitution, the Commission is responsible for conducting or supervising referenda and elections to any elective body or office established by the Constitution, and any other elections as prescribed by an Act of Parliament and, in particular, for—
(c) the delimitation of constituencies and wards using appropriate technologies and approaches;
If we look at the Constitution of Kenya, then we see where this power originates from. Article 89 is specific on this power. There is a proviso that the review should be completed at least 12months prior to the elections. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe, if ever there was a time for the case to be made for Kenyans by Kenyans, it is now. If we will have Wards, each ward will have a Representative in the County Assembly. This means that bread and butter issues of the Citizens will be dealt with closer to home: In the County Assembly. Therefore the role of the Constituency of mwananchi representation is not central, Parliament's role and structure has also changed. A lean and mean parliament can do just as well as a bloated one, if not better. A constituency should be delineated to become the size of the County for purposes.
Level Playing Field
This theory makes sense as well in the quest for free and fair elections. Elections are hard fought in Kenya. For them to be fair, everyone must be playing in the same arena. Women Representatives, Governors and Senators seek their mandate from the whole County. To level things off, members of national assembly should seek a countywide mandate as well. Currently, a woman MP with the whole county behind her should have more clout than an ordinary MP in the current set up. Why not round everything off nicely? Each County therefore should produce one Male and one Female Member of Parliament, and we still retain the 12 special interest seats. That way, the gender rule will be progressively achieved. This means we will have a national assembly with a total of 107 members made up of 47 male, 47 female, 12 special interest group nominees and a Speaker. Not only can we better afford 107 members, as compared to 350 members, the playing field will be leveled for all persons seeking elective posts, since they will have countywide support.
Given the vast powers that the National Assembly will have, it is vital for the people going there to have the widest mandate possible as is with the Senators. Each Party only has to nominate one man and one woman to go on the ballot, and each stand equal chance of being elected. It is time for the Members of the 11th Parliament to wake up and smell the coffee. We did not get rid of dictatorship by the President to swap it with dictatorship by Parliament. We are not interested if some of them "lose" their seats since they are not theirs to keep, but ours to give to whom we please. Time has come for them to put Kenya ahead of their own selfish interests and make the right decision for Kenya.
However, we know they will not, since they are too interested in making the chairs more cushy for themselves. That is why the Constitution availed the possibility of amendment of the constitution by popular initiative. We need to get this idea down into a Bill, present it to all the County assemblies. If at least 26 assemblies adopt it, then we present it to the national assembly. If they decline to listen to our views and amend the law accordingly, then the IEBC will put the question to Kenyans in a Referendum. If the Kenyans adopt it, it stands so amended. While we are changing representation to the national assembly from the constituency to the county, we might as well also amend the constitution to give the Senate teeth over the national assembly. They have clearly demonstrated they cannot police themselves, so time for us to go ahead and tell Senate to wield a whip over them. These measures will not only save us some money, but will release what we need to move this country forward. It is strike season already, we need to pay the teachers, and doctors, and nurses, and lecturers and civil servants.....
Get more of Joy's Musings at joymdivo.blogspot.com