Nairobi Star Newspaper David Makali: Don't Celebrate Mps' Power Yet

There is in Kenya presently a rabid determination to clip the President's powers and hem him under Parliament. The excitement is motivated by a deep loathing of the President's management style and his demeanour towards the public, which views him as insensitive and smug.

But the alternative is just as dangerous; there is no evidence that an all-powerful Parliament is good for this country. It is akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Clearly, the public's memory is short. Today we cheer the MPs as they connive to whip the rogue President into shape but forget that just the other day we were all prostrating and begging him to please help us rein in the greedy MPs who had declined to have their hefty allowances taxed.

Indeed, the public is the unwitting pawn in wicked, self-serving schemes of our politicians. There is nothing constant about MPs. They flip-flop according to political considerations and personal gains.

Today, we applaud them for putting brakes on Executive flat in the appointment of Aaron Ringera and his deputies but forget how the same MPs voted when they were confronted with the maize scandal. It is not a secret that money changed hands to influence the voting in the House.

We have similarly forgotten what happened during the debate on setting up a tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of the post-election violence or the Mau Forest report.

We are in such a hopeless institutional crisis that we are desperately grasping at any straw even if only for momentary relief. Emasculating the Presidency is good for now because it has been the object of our hatred throughout the Moi years.

But it is the poor leadership and immense political compromises that are now leading us to the brinkmanship between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

The colourless Judiciary seems to have lost its vitality, for which Chief Justice Evan Gicheru must bear full responsibly. All of us had such high hopes in him when he ascended to the helm, yet his tenure seems destined to be perhaps the most disastrous administratively. Just last week, Imams petitioned the President over the unexplained transfer of the Mombasa magistrate they believed was doing a good job fighting drug barons.

Indeed there is evidence that unlike the Legislature, the Judiciary's leadership has failed to assert its independence and is susceptible to political and executive manipulation.

Questions abound about the frequent transfer of judges from one station to another, often midway through cases, which has adversely affected the administration of justice.

Some cases still take ages in court while others are fast-tracked. In arbitrating "political" disputes or "sensitive" cases, the Judiciary is yet to strjke anything as fundamental as what House Speaker Kenneth Marende has achieved within a,very short time.

Yes, we can applaud the small blows being handed out by Parliament to the Executive and deplore the Judiciary's lack of independence, but when all the chips are settled, it is only the new Constitution that will save this country from further degeneration and ruin.

The Constitution we write must define and limit the powers that are being contested all the time by the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive in such a manner that there shall never again be abuse of office. It must lower the stakes of power. That is the most urgent business of all we have as a nation.

I dread what will happen next year if a new constitution is not enacted quickly. A lame duck President on his way out will make even more outrageous appointments to secure his immediate interests and future. Imagine for a moment if the President unscrupulously used the current loopholes in the Judicial Service Commission, as he did with the Electoral Commission, and rushed to fill the vacancies in the High Court and Court of Appeal with his friends?

If you consider that the last judicial appointments had a smattering of kinship and friendship ties, this is not mere fantasy. The country is yet to be told why Justice Aggrey Muchelule and Abida Aroni were blocked from taking up their appointments even when they continued to draw their new salaries. If such key judicial appointments can be subjected to personal whims, what will stop anyone with a penchant from appointing his wife as Chief Justice?

Only a new constitution will save this country from the excesses and failures of our leadership.

David Makali is a media consultant.

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