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).