Terms limits had been placed on Moi because of popular pressure because he had become too discredited. Kibaki was selected by the same ruling group to replace Moi. He campaigned on a promise an end to corruption. Having become indebted to the ruling elite, Kibaki was unable to move against them. The result was that the gravy train kept chugging along smoothly.
In December 2007, when new elections were held after Kibaki’s first term was over, the ruling group decided to rig the presidential elections to keep the now far less popular Kibaki in power and the corruption intact. Ethnic violence erupted, directed mainly against the Kikuyu people, whose elite was substantially represented in the ruling group, even though the vast majority of Kikuyu people remained poor and disadvantaged and had nothing to do with the corruption. In the violence over 1000 people died.
As explained by two distinguished Kenyan academics who were resource persons at a workshop on ‘The Role of Parliament on Peace Building: The Case of Kenya in Addressing Post Election Violence in 2008,’ held at the 56th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting in Kenya, ethnic embers had been burning for decades. The response of the ruling elite to demands for poverty reduction and an equitable distribution of resources, was to strengthen the power of the Presidency so that authoritarian methods can be used to suppress opposition demands. It all exploded in post election violence in 2008 after international observers found clear evidence of rigging against Raila Odinga’s Orange Movement.
Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, eventually brokered an agreement, the two major elements of which included an amendment to the constitution to create the powerful post of Prime Minister, to which Raila Odinga was appointed, and for a general review of the constitution. The violence ended and the agreement has been implemented and appears to be working. Even though there have been tensions and difficulties, and many more to come with the enactment of over fifty laws for the transformation of the political and constitutional structure of Kenya, the popular Swahili phrase, ‘hakuna matata,’ is gaining renewed resonance. It means literally ‘no worries,’ but loosely translated it can mean anything from ‘there will be no worries,’ or ‘everything will be all right,’ or ‘Kenya will be fine.’
The new constitution contains the usual provisions but some surprising ones. It provides for an advanced bill of rights which can be enforced by any interested party. It incorporates international conventions and treaties as part of its laws. It provides for access to information, for legislation on ethics, corruption, responsibilities of leadership, financial probity of state officers and more.
Above all it defines and limits the powers of the President and transforms the state structure.
The elections for the President and members of the National Assembly are held on the same date fixed by the constitution. The size of the cabinet is limited and the nominees, who shall not be members of parliament, have to be approved by the National Assembly. A Cabinet member may be dismissed by the vote of one-third National Assembly if one-quarter of its members support a resolution requiring the President to dismiss him/her on specified grounds, including violation of the constitution or a law or gross misconduct and a Special Select Committee finds the charge(s) proved.
The state structure has been transformed with the creation of ‘devolved government.’ County governments have been created consisting of a county assembly and a county executive. The county assembly is elected and presided over by a Speaker. The county executive is presided over by a Governor, elected on the same fixed date as the county assembly, and a county executive committee of a limited number of persons who are not members of the county assembly but who must be approved by the county assembly. The legislative authority of county assemblies and functions of county executive committees are fully set out in the constitution.
Finally, the constitution establishes a Senate which, with the National Assembly, constitutes the Parliament. It consists of forty-seven members with each county consisting a single member constituency. Like the National Assembly, it consists of a number of women nominated by political parties in accordance with the proportion of their members, four other members representing youth and persons with disabilities, one being a woman from each group.
The result is a substantial diffusion of power, to local representatives, and a consequential diminution of pervasive presidential authority, notwithstanding great concerns that the worst section of the old discredited leadership is going to return as governors, senators and other county officials. Intense debates are raging.
‘Harambee’ is a Swahili word which literally means “all pull together.” It is inscribed on Kenya’s coat of arms. After a very long time, the feeling of ‘Harambee’ is once again inspiring Kenyans because of the optimism generated by the adoption of the new constitution. (www.conversationtree.gy).