Kenya’s Proposed Constitution: The Good, The Bad and The Ugali

Sometime in the last decade (’97 to be exact), former president Moi rhetorically asked, in one of his infamous road-side declarations, whether filling the vacant position of Vice-President (by either re-appointing Saitoti or appointing someone else) would add plates of ugali to Kenyan homes.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard this same ‘ugali’ phrase being used by some of the politically apathetic/cynical/indifferent/non-voter’s-card-having folk I hang out with vis-a-vis the proposed constitution. If I understand them correctly, this constitutional making process is nothing more than another political game of wits that has nothing to do with creating a new legal and social order for Kenya. Therefore they argue that the proposed Constitution, if it passes, will not make a difference to: a) their lives; and b) to the average Kenyan.

Of course I beg to differ with those propositions. How it will make a difference to all these naysayers depends on them. Does the proposed Constitution provide an environment for them to set up and run their businesses and hence get more ugali? I’d argue Yes. But that also depends on how it affects the ordinary Kenyan.

The most direct way the proposed Constitution leads to ‘more ugali’, so to speak, is giving money to citizens, Yes—money. By this am referring to Article 203 (2) which states that at LEAST 15% of all government revenue will go to the counties. There is no such provision in the current constitution. Last year the government collected 488,548,940,000 bob, 15 % of that is 73 billion shillings. There are going to be 47 counties in the country, that’s the equivalent of 1.5 billion per county (there will be a formula to divide this equitably (not necessarily equally) amongst the counties).

So what? Some may say, that money will be ‘eaten’ by a few people. Er, not necessarily. Each county is headed by an elected governor – NOT a DC appointed by State House. This makes a huge difference. I’m sure that most of us are old enough to remember the terrible state Nairobi was in, in the early 90’s: parking boyz everywhere, heaps of garbage all over the place etc. Nairobi now may still be described as a sh*tty place by some but it is much much much less sh*tty than it was then. The heaps of garbage have been moved away from the City Centre, there are street lights in most places, there are even a few water fountains and flower beds! Could you picture that in 1991? Or 1993? One then has to ask why this is the case now. The simple answer is increased democracy. Democracy is to politics what competition is to commerce. The freer the democracy, the better the delivery of services to the people. Simply put if the mayor of Nairobi today decided to take Nairobi back to 1992 days he’d be out of the job in the next election. It wasn’t like before where as long as ‘baba’ was okay with you, you’d win the mlolongo vote with no drama.

So if the Kirinyaga Governor, for instance, was receiving 1.5 million bob each year from Central Government and he was facing elections every five years, he and his similarly elected County Assembly would have be more efficient than the current government offices we see at grassroots level. In addition to this the finances of the counties will be scrutinised by the Controller of Budget and Auditor-General (whose offices are provided for in the draft—go read it G**^&^^%dammit!!!)

County governments will be in charge of agriculture, health, transport, trade development etc… With that budget & constant elections they should be more efficient than what we have now. And if they are more efficient that’s good for small and big businesses in those counties…and if business is doing well that’s more ugali…

Another area where this proposed Constitution is far superior to our current document is Cabinet appointments. There is no doubt that the most powerful and influential body since 1963 has been the Cabinet. They came (come) up with policy and their Permanent Secretaries implemented (implement) them. Now, filled with incompetent people cabinet may at times come up with some ludicrous decisions, which are actually implemented. How many of you remember that we have an INTERNATIONAL Airport in Eldoret? In Eldoret! And that between 2005-2007 we had a Minster of Defence by the name of Njenga Karume. With this proposed Constitution, all Cabinet appointments have to be approved by Parliament (and they can’t be sitting Members or Parliament). That’s 51% of Parliament. We all know that MP’s (like the Kenyans they represent) can be a greedy lot but I think it’s fair to say that we will at the very least have academically qualified people in Cabinet moreso when their CV’s will be in the public domain while their possible appointments are being debated in bunge. Academic qualifications are a requirement for most private sector jobs and they usually increase efficiency. Look at how fast the economy grew when President Kibaki appointed Mwiraria as the Minister of Finance – he had the necessary papers and experience—and we BEAT the growth targets the World Bank set us. Now, take a look at the current Minister of Finance – would he be at the helm of that Ministry under the proposed Constitution? Would 51% of parliament approve his nomination if he presented his papers and experience? Probably not…the president of the day would probably be forced to present one of the many competent CEO’s we have in this country, or someone like Mwiraria. And Mwiraria as we saw a few years back led to more plates of ugali in Kenyan households (no Anglo-leasing lol).

Someni Draft!

15 thoughts on “Kenya’s Proposed Constitution: The Good, The Bad and The Ugali

  1. Pingback: Diasporadical: Kenya’s Proposed Constitution: The Good, The Bad and The Ugali | Daily Kenyan News Update

  2. Preach!
    I TOTALLY feel you!
    The same guys who dont vote are the ones you hear complaining loudest.
    Remember when Multiparty state/country was a fantasy? When we all thought MO1 would NEVER step down…now his a “consultant”.

  3. It’s shocking that most learned Kenyans including you Iceman, focus all your attention on all the progressive, forward-thinking, shiny new features in the proposed constitution while ignoring the reality of the situation with which Kenya is faced. Our current constitution may not be as modern and democratic as the proposed one is, but it enshrines alot of fundamental rights and principles that all 3 branches of government continue to flout day after day with impunity! So with such a culture and such a value system so deeply engrained in our decaying institutions, how exactly do you convince people to have faith that once the proposed consititution is passed, all over a sudden laws will be respected and followed?

    This new constitution wont be the first progressive piece of legislation to be passed on the floor of parliament only to end up being shelved and gather dust somewhere.. meanwhile the status quo will no doubt continue.

    I dont mean to sound like a cynic or anything like that (my Voter’s card is proof that I care enough about my country to let my voice be heard when the time comes). However I do feel that the worst thing any of us can do is tell Kenyans that having a new constitution will be the key to solving the common mwanainchi’s problems and getting their hopes up for nothing. Saying Yes to this constitution literally means starting from scratch, total overhaul of alot of institutions and introducing a totally new legal and democratic order in Kenya based on open-ness, transparency and accountability. Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

    As evidenced by SA’s post-1996 constitutional jurisprudence, I really think Kenyans need to be told that passing this proposed constitution is just a drop in the ocean compared to the long, long road that lies ahead as far as giving effect to the provisions contained in the proposed constitution is concerned. Or are we going to be typical Kenyans about it and say that we’ll cross the ‘implementation bridge’ when we get to it?

    Food for thought (no Ugali).

  4. It seems like everyone is in this katiba thing for themselves -to make money off it- whether its councillors, civil society, politicians and private individuals. This saddens me. As a Kenyan who has been let down time and again by politicians and law-makers, I’m only supporting the constitution because I see its potential. the key word is ‘potential’. Kenya and indeed Africa has so much potential and yet look where we are now! To some extent I have a reason to feel concerned that we’ll land ourselves with this document and not know/be unable/unwilling to implement it correctly for the good of all Kenyans.

    The proof of this ugali, that Iceman and others like him speak of, will be in the eating.

  5. In line with the “ugali” references made by the two previous commenters I’ll start by saying this, if you cant stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. This is not to say that I support the theatrics, tactics and politics taking place during this whole constitutional-making process. All I’m saying is that law-making is an ugly process, there will be mud-slinging, mischievous typographical “errors”, underhanded deals and ofcourse lots and lots of politicking and campaigning. That’s why its important to remain sober and focus on the issues. The real issues that matter to Kenyans. We cant all agree on these issues but the majority will no doubt prevail. Iceman has raised one out of many issues that Kenyans need to bear in mind while reading the draft and I think his arguments hold water.
    As far as implementation or rather mis-implementation fears are concerned, we will be going to the polls in 2012 so if we pass this constitution now, all the members of the Executive and Legislature we chose to elect, will be bound by this new constitution and their performance will be judged accordingly.


  6. Great analysis of how the draft constitution will increase the ugali in Kenya.

    The governor will have a ‘cabinet’ of not more than 10 people who will not be members of the county assembly. So real opportunity for the county to be led by professionals and held accountable to the assembly and citizens.

  7. Why lie whenever I hear a Kenyan youth saying, quite confidently and openly in public, that s/he will vote NO at the Referendum, I wanna grab my ugali mwiko and spank them upside the head! I even told my parents about it and I questioned why they chose to be indifferent about this Yes/No katiba debate to the point of not even registering to vote. But those are my parents, they’ve both served this country as civil servants and have a right to be bitter for the way their own gava treated them despite their many years of service. My parents have also had to work for evrything they have without the gava ever doing anything for them. So I sort of understand their indifference and cynicism about this draft. But us as the youth have no excuse not to support this draft at the referendum. This draft will be ours to uphold and protect. We will be the ones to insist and ensure that our new katiba is followed to the letter and all the corruption and impunity is left in the past. This is OUR constitution. I beg all the youth to come out and support it!

    • @ Vee I disagree. Am voting no because I cease to understand why we are in so much hurry to vote in a document with so many loopholes yet it wont come to effect till 2012. The mode of governance will too expensive to maintain the bill of rights lets not even go there, they give the armed forces right to riot. Really?
      Again it maybe a good document overal but the loopholes according to me are far too many. Again the day we will come to support the same thing is the day democracy will cease to be in Kenya.

  8. I would like to share with you a great resource that you can tell
    visitors to your website.

    It will allow them to read the Proposed New Constitution of Kenya. allows Kenyans to read the Proposed Constitution of
    Kenya on their mobile phones in English and Kiswahili. They can even
    search for particular words i.e arrest, family etc

    Please distribute to all so we can make an informed decision come the

  9. all the arguments about the “spreading of wealth” are really nothing more than a fallacy of appeal to vanity, since if you read this your connected to the internet and literate I’ll let you find out what logical fallacies are, we’ve seen how the cdf is spent and frankly its not very well, some mp bought a house in a posh estate in the city , county councils routinely misappropriate funds, constantly seeking pay hikes just like the august house, frankly how anyone can believe this bloated government-to-come is a good thing beats me, . the government structure that propose dis so huge and bloated it will make the 40 member current cabinet look emaciated. and who is going to pay for all this? you young man, since the older generation is already retiring , its the youth who will end up footing the tax bill, if there will be jobs to pay them at all as the punitive tax system needed to raise the governments expenditure will drive most employers to the ground.

  10. Pingback: The Following Religious Leaders DO NOT Represent My Stand On The Proposed Constitution « Diasporadical

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