Pheroze Nowrojee: Representation is not just about numbers - The Star

Some MPs from Central Province are demanding that the new boundaries for constituencies should be redrawn on the principle only of numbers of voters.

If implemented as the only applicable principle, huge areas would be disenfranchised politically. In Parliament, it would further disempower many smaller and diverse groups.

The issue is not numbers. It is adequate representation.

In most intended constituencies, numbers will work to give adequate representation.

This reflects the important electoral principle that the vote of all voters must carry the same electoral weight. But pastoralists do not stay in one place. Nor does all land have the same ecology or support the same population density.

Therefore there is another and more important principle; adequate representation. Too many numbers destroy that adequacy. To restore the balance, we reduce the size of the constituency by dividing the old one into two or more constituencies. Embakasi in Nairobi is an example of this necessity.

Too few numbers also destroy the adequacy when they result in a constituency that is physically too large. We must again restore the balance to have constituencies which are physically manageable but have a lesser than average number of voters.

But there is a more dangerous concern raised by these single-issue calls in a complex matter. These calls by only these MPs signal significant negative attitudes.

Firstly, these calls signal that they are determined to obtain domination over other Kenyans by structural provisions and not by persuasion. They want to recapture power not by persuading other Kenyans to vote for them, but by pushing provisions into the intended constitutional changes through which they would be ensured control.

There is a difference between legitimate demands for more constituencies whether in Nairobi, Central Province or anywhere else, and demands that only population determine constituencies.

That is clearly a political manoeuvre to exclude others from control. It is a patent move to control the choice of Prime Minister by obtaining more seats and reducing the seats of others. They seek to make the choice of PM fall within the control of only one community.

Such MPs will then want their numerically defined constituencies to be drawn to contain majorities from one group and its allies. This gerrymandering will be another variation in their attempts to manufacture a single-ethnic 'majority' over other Kenyan groups.

They have shown by their actions over the decades that they do not mind coming to or holding on to power.

This is what brought about 2007, our huge polarisation and the removal of national trust in a government led by such a Central Province elite. Now with their shrill arguments they are again signalling that they do not care about other fellow Kenyans.

Secondly, they do all this with the rhetoric of democratic principles. Yet it is to achieve their undemocratic power-plays. That is why we only hear them talking about equality when others get more.

But when they themselves get more, as they have for years during Kenyatta and Kibaki 2003-2007, they do not speak up for equality for others.

Thirdly, such members are again signalling that they are always ready to turn a national debate into one about their own interests only. There is nothing wrong in demanding for one's own interests. It is when national interests are continually placed last that we can see no sincerity in their 'democratic' language.

Democracy is about more people than one group. We have yet to see the national interest being advanced by this group. We do not see them looking after the welfare of other groups. This shows they do not qualify for national leadership.

Fourthly, these crude calls signal that they still think other Kenyans cannot see through their insincere rhetoric. The corollary is that other Kenyans are not up to their own intellectual (and other) superiority. All the massive failures of 2003 to 2008 by this elite show how hollow this claim of superiority is. This hubris is a historical factor common to such elites. We cannot expect reform or democratic practices from them.

They are not capable either of solving Kenya's current national problems, or of leading it into a reformed future. Our national hopes for national leadership lie elsewhere.

Pheroze Nowrojee is a lawyer based in Nairobi.

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