Friday, 17 August 2012

What Kenyan Integrity?

On August 27th 2010, Kenya promulgated her new constitution and by extension, turned the country into a nation that will be determined by litigation. It’s a ridiculous conundrum, to have to resolve interpretations because the framers of the constitution decided to rely on ambiguity when it came to definition of certain terms. So, I blame the framers of the constitution for tossing in an ambiguous term such as “Integrity” into the constitution as a parameter for determining a candidate’s suitability for State Office without detailing what exactly defines “Integrity”.

How indeed can we determine who will be our civic leaders if we, as Kenyans, have never taken the time to define what is integrity for ourselves? How do Kenyans define integrity? Consider this cyclical rationale – “Integrity is someone who is not corrupt.”
Ok, then, what is corruption?

Kenyans are a naturally corrupt lot. Yes, you are all very corrupt. Should the traffic be bumper to bumper, you are very glad that your matatu driver is ‘jumping’ the queue. If you can get a passport faster, you will pay extra. If it’s easier to give 500kshs to a cop, you will do it. You are corrupt, everywhere, everyday. So if integrity is someone who is not corrupt, then not a single Kenyan has integrity.

Kenyans have never defined for themselves what these terms are, and because the framers of the constitution were too lazy to find out from the nation what integrity really means to the population, they left the matter subject to interpretation.

So here is where we as a people get dragged into court room duels between lawyers and supervised by Judges over the legal interpretations of terms as yet not defined by the republic. It is at this point, the comedic emerges. One civil society lot petitions the high court over the eligibility of 2 presidential hopefuls who are ICC suspects, the other lot also enjoins the remaining 3 top contenders. In addition, these cases must reach their logical and final conclusions before the elections can legally occur. Meanwhile the incumbent president remains in charge.

In the background, the average Kenyan vents and fumigates over how so and so, who is their preferred candidate is unfairly being targeted. While they focus on the integrity cases, believing, perhaps wrongly, that this is what will determine the outcome of the next election, they also vent vitriol in public forums against their perceived enemies, and the ethnic communities of those “enemies.”

For those that may have missed it, it took about a month of violence to bring our nation to the brink of war. In the last 5 years, very little, other than talk, has been done to foster peace between communities. In fact in the last 5 years, Kenya has repeatedly had several internal conflicts often small in geographical terms, but great in political terms. If this government is not careful, the next elections may certainly be an explosive version of what happened in 2008.

What irks me is that on top of all this, is that we are faced with seemingly endless litigation, because we, as a nation, don’t know what integrity is. Because we cannot define something that we never expect to actually have to live up to, but only expect others to exhibit.

A definition of terms was necessary in the framing of the constitution. It is imperative, that as a nation, despite our cultural differences, we can collectively agree on universal values such as Integrity.

The fact that the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee has invited the public to participate and contribute to the drafting of the Integrity Bill appears to be a mere Band-Aid solution. Lets we forget, the CIOC were also crucial to the vetting of one Nancy Baraza, whose “Integrity” since that time has soundly been found wanting.
Judging from the CIOC’s judgment of Ms. Baraza, the CIOC has yet to prove itself worthy of judging anyone’s integrity.

At the end of the day, the average Kenyan is bound to be disappointed, whether amendments and deletions are made to the Integrity Bill or not. And the simple reason is nobody has any idea what integrity means to a Kenyan.

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