Nairobi Star - Joseph Kamotho: Kenyans Need to Know their Rights

" The fundamental rights and freedoms of an individual in Kenya are an integral part of the democratic state and are the framework for social, economic and cultural policies," states the first paragraph on the Bill of Rights chapter in the proposed draft constitution that is a cut, copy and paste of the current Constitution.

Section two of the chapter states that the purpose of the recognition and protection of human rights is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of human beings.

One of the most abused and violated chapters in the Constitution is the Bill of Rights.

If these rights were to be implemented to the letter, the country would be a sparkling model in the world. Ethnic, economic and political tensions would be things of the past because every individual would be catered for in the distribution of resources.

Little known is the fact that from the public taxes, the government is under obligation to provide basic needs such as infrastructure, education, health services and food as enshrined in the Constitution. Service delivery to the electorate is a non-negotiable right, not a privilege. The ignorance of rights has cost taxpayers a fortune.

The political leaders have made Kenyans believe they own the country's resources and have powers to distribute them to political friends and relatives.

Starving Kenyans are paraded as cattle in an auction before television cameras to receive relief food from political leaders.

MPs are not fighting to reverse the trend. They do not demand their fair share of budgetary allocations.

One of the pre-independence parties manifesto ideals was not far from the chapter on the Bill of Rights. Kanu emphasised bettering the quality of life of Kenyans by declaring war on the three national enemies — poverty, ignorance and disease.

Unfortunately, these national enemies are still unwelcome guests in most of our homes. The poor bear the brunt of the ravages. The begging bowl carried by leaders and constituents today is a contradiction if not a violation of the supreme law.

A lawmaker will go down on knees with rounds of applause to present a memorandum listing the needs of a constituency to a national leader and expect the same treatment from the constituents.

Amongst the projects listed could be the creation of district or upgrading of a local authority, providing funds for roads construction, electricity supply, building of classrooms or providing drugs to a health centre.

Long after Kenya became a multiparty state, it is still assumed that one must belong to the governing party or be a partner in the coalition to enjoy state funding of projects. On account of party affiliation, the host may be lucky to get a lion's share of the demands.

It follows therefore that the MP has to beg for development or consider defecting to the ruling party in order to benefit from presidential favours.

This national blackmail makes a mockery of the Constitution and good governance.

Leaders exploit this chronic ignorance to deny the electorate their inalienable right.

Hands of Parliament are tied and cannot point an accusing ringer at an extravagant or dishonest MP. Sometimes a dishonest parliamentarian could be a member or chairman of a watchdog committee where his conduct could be the subject of interrogation.

Perhaps conflict of interest and complicity could explain Parliament's reluctance to legislate penalties for the em-bezzlement of public funds or follow up on how the tax money is spent on projects in their areas of jurisdiction, the nation or at the constituency level.

Without a wink, most of the current African leaders emerging from decades of misrule seem to approve of the perpetuation of age-old habits of blackmail and manipulation.

The big question is who is going to intervene and save Kenyans from exploitation? Not Kofi Annan but the just constituted Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission whose mandate is to examine past and present injustices. In one way or another, Kenyans are violators of rights or perpetrators of injustices in exercise of their assignments.

The writer is a former Cabinet minister, Mathioya MP and secretary-general of Kanu and LDP.

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