There is no dispute that Kenya has a constitution that is progressive. One that is so detailed — there is an article that is specific to youth, marginalised communities and even the environment. Many countries cannot say the same about their constitutions.
Ten years after the country adopted this constitution, many young people don’t know what it contains. Ten years may be too short to determine its direct usefulness to the public when it hasn’t been aggressively distributed or the public taken through its contents. As a matter of fact, that has been a task left to underfunded civil society organisations to do.
But, even with those barriers, when it comes to information on the constitution, are we demanding way too much from it?
Just to think that the ’90s are not too far off; people can still remember leadership under a one-party state. And now we have a constitution that is to protect us from that ever happening.
Enthusiasts often say that we have made so much progress, the fact that now, ordinary citizens have actually won cases against actions of the government. They also note we are able to witness cases of high-ranking officials, such as governors, which in the past would be unheard of. That in itself is a change and can be considered progressive.
Sirisia MP John Walukhe was recently been released on a cash bail of Ksh10 million ($92,100) following an appeal over corruption charges.
The MP was recently interviewed speaking about his four-month stay in prison. What was fascinating about the ten minutes one-on-one interview, was how nonchalant the reporting was. He was dressed in sports gear, in some beautiful park, as he jogged a few metres with the reporter. The interview was quite shallow.
We did not speak about how prison changed his view on corruption.
He said he met people jailed for very petty offences and can’t raise a fine of Ksh 500 ($4.6), and therefore stuck in prison. He talked about getting some out but that discussion was just a few seconds compared to how long he spent on the kind of food (or lack thereof) that he ate in the prison, and how he was not treated differently.
The kind of interrogation during the interview seemed comical. For the amount of resources that were lost and the fact that it is a pending case.
The MP was able to return to his duties in Parliament and to the excitement of his colleagues and an almost heroic welcome that caused a stir. Our constitution touches on integrity and leadership but our mentality is still far behind.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, executive director, Siasa Place @NerimaW