We have a great Constitution in Kenya, if only we could respect it...

Thursday June 27 2019

George Otieno Ndallo with his painting of Kenya's former president Mwai Kibaki holding a copy of the constitution.

George Otieno Ndallo with his painting of Kenya's former president Mwai Kibaki holding a copy of the constitution during the promulgation of the document in 2010. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
By NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
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There has been active debate over our Constitution lately and whether we need a referendum to fix it.

After less than nine years, we are questioning whether the Constitution is right for our country, for our people, even though intellectuals such as Yash Pal Ghai insist that, "The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is still among the best in the world... the problem is lack of respect for it."

Take Chapter 6, Article 73 of the Constitution for instance, on leadership and integrity. It is direct, simple and straight to the point, saying a state officer, “must demonstrate respect for the people, bring honour to the nation and dignity to the office, promote public confidence in the integrity of the office…” There are many real life examples of individuals currently in leadership who have defied all those attributes recently, yet they still sit pretty in their posh offices.

The Constitution goes on to require that, “decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices… selfless service based on public interest.” Characteristics such as “honesty, accountability, discipline, and commitment.”

Walk into any county government office, or ask the public about an individual who does not display the above qualities... The people that these officers serve know very well the kind of shenanigans their representatives are up to. They are aware of the latest structure that was put up for misusing public resources, and none of them is part of any investigation team.

This goes back to the earlier question; what solutions do we have for the blatant lack of respect?

And who is disrespecting the Constitution? Most people don’t know the Constitution, almost a decade after its promulgation, and many do not know what the first chapter is, even a sentence. Should those who are public officers be held to a greater account because the Constitution spells out in detail the way they should behave and the position that they hold?

I do believe that those that represent the people should know the Constitution, and abide by it even more.

The fight against corruption is not some creative, out-of-the box idea that we hope will descend from the stars. It is like running a race and having no finishing line.

At the moment we are running, fast and furious, we have no idea whether we are on a stadium track, or grass or sand, and absolutely no idea whether a finishing line is present – there is no way to gauge the distance, there are no goals specify how to help pace ourselves, and what does winning look like?

We would not run any race if it were this way in real life, so why do we think that the fight against corruption can be fought in this manner?

Corruption is everywhere, so getting rid of it is impossible, perhaps reducing the rampant corruption is more realistic.

The question should be, how do we increase accountability?

For those who are not accountable, there are consequences. With accountability comes responsibility and with the consequences, we have standards. We need to create pressure for there to be a standard of integrity. Falling out of line with the Constitution should have consequences.

It is very difficult to put faith in something, even something the size of a mustard seed, when it produces no results. Like telling a farmer to grow a certain seed on a patch of land, he will water it, add fertiliser, try different techniques hoping to see the seed sprout. But over time, he will begin to think it won’t grow and stop trying to make it grow.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW

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