August 27th was the third anniversary of the promulgation of the “new” Kenya constitution. It wasn’t really new in 2010, simply the third attempt at creating an inclusive and unanimously agreed upon document that represented the will and wishes of the Kenyan people. 7th August, 2010 brought a journey of years of tears, sweat and blood to an end after a landslide victory in a referendum that quite literally threatened to rend apart the nation.
The thing about that referendum is that it represented the very essence of what we have come to define as democracy in Kenya. It was a “winner takes all” battle. That is, in the culture and spirit of every other electoral process, proponents for the new constitution and against went cutthroat at each other. Just like the 2002 elections, and then the 2005 referendum, and then the 2007 elections, the 2010 referendum was filled with malice, misinformation and selfish interest on the part of stakeholders and politicians. It was a battle between Green (Yes) and Red (No).
On the part of the “No” team, was the determined drive to obscure certain facts of the constitution that pertain to the protection of life; at every rally the electorate was reminded that this constitution would allow for abortions to be conducted. “Mtakuwa baba wa akina nani?!” (Whose fathers will you be?) The churches especially were resolute on the matter, despite the constitution clearly stating that:
“The life of a person begins at conception” and “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law. [Art. 26 (2) & (4)]
I suppose it was the terms “unless” and “emergency” and “life of the mother” that they were most objected to. The idea that the mother’s life was important too must have been completely unacceptable. Thus, a campaign based on driving misinformation based on that clause led the “No” team to literally claim that the new constitution allowed for abortions under all circumstances.
But let’s not berate the “No” team. They were in good company. Because the “Yes” team, rather than clarify the deliberate misinformation that was going out, chose to attack the people behind the “No” campaign, calling them, “anti-reformers.” Those who previously considered themselves politically expedient earned the title “Watermelons” (green on the outside, red on the inside).
The escalation of animosities between camps was so intense, so great that it became a national concern that a repeat of the violence of 2007/08 post election violence might occur. Let’s just pause there. This was just going to be a referendum, no lucrative elected posts would be at stake and at the heart of the referendum would be a document for all Kenyans from here into eternity. Yet the tension and hatred in the country was so intense that it actually resulted in major security concerns. The US and UK even issued travel advisories.
Luckily for all of us, after months of spewing all sorts of venomous, vitriolic garbage about the opposing camps, the politicians and stakeholders begrudgingly began to preach a message of peace. A bit too late of course for some parts of the Rift Valley but on the whole, the flares of violence before, during and after the referendum were to a controlled minimum.
It’s been three years since we promulgated the constitution. Lo and behold, majority of Kenyans are as misinformed and largely ignorant of the constitution as they were when they were voting 3 years ago. You have to remember that this constitution was the most widely and freely government distributed document in the history of Kenya. Yet majority of Kenyans to date have not read it. I believe it was Mark Twain who said that, “A person who does not read is just as badly off as a person who cannot read.” That is, you are both ILLITERATE.
Kenyans revel in their ignorance by the way, as do their political leaders. That’s why now, 3 years later, we have County Governors threatening the process of devolution with demands that the constitution be amended so that 40% of the National budget is distributed to the Counties rather than 15%; never mind that they have no presented facts or statements of expenditure that can justify such a demand. That’s why now, 6 months after the 2013 general elections that cost us billions of shillings, politicians are talking about doing another referendum in order to amend the constitution so as to take the right to vote for president away from the electorate because of “the tyranny of numbers” AKA some ethnic groups outnumber others.
Throughout all this the staunchly defiant and proudly ignorant yet ethnic (p) sycophantic political supporter of whichever tribal kingpin, agrees in total with whatever his tribesman says.
If we did go to a referendum to amend the constitution to take away our own right to pick the president it would certainly not surprise me that up to 50% and more of Kenyans would vote against their own rights, because that is what ignorant people do. Ignorant people will cheer while an elite group of sadistic politicians rile them up emotionally over a document that seeks to serve them ALL.
3 years after the constitution was promulgated and the Constitution Implementation Committee confirms that the biggest obstacle to the implementation process is not just the delays in the scheduling but the massive, determined, willful ignorance of majority of Kenyans. It’s a simple concept. We cannot fully implement the Kenya Constitution if you do not read and consequently adopt the tenets within that document; knowing and exercising your rights, freedoms, responsibilities and privileges. Without you making the constitution a part of your identity as a citizen of this country that document is just a piece of paper that is partly important to government officials and perhaps, sometimes important to the Judiciary and rarely important to Parliament.
This is the year of anniversaries, and yet all we seem to be marking is yet another year of ethnic drivel, animosity and the general stupidity of majority of Kenyans who keep talking about a document they haven’t read and will not read. Cheers Baby, Happy Anniversary!