David Makali: The Presidential System Still the Best - The Star

Reports from the Mombasa retreat called by the government agree on the contentious issues in the draft constitution indicate a continuing standoff over the form of government Kenya should have.

Unable to reach an amicable solution, it is reported that the matter of whether to have an executive Prime Minister or President was left to the two incumbent principals — Raila Odinga and Mwai Kbaki — to agree.

That is truly absurd. The architecture of our state should not be reduced to the whims of two politicians and what they want to donate to each other. It also compounds the perception that the constitution we are about to debate is a ceasefire document of sorts between the two combatants.

Fair enough, they are in the driver's seat, but we must avoid conveying the slightest illusion that our current awkward coalition arrangement is an example of what the future will look like.

Some Kenyans may begin to see in either of the systems a reflection of the political fortunes of those whom they support so that those who follow Raila may prefer an executive Prime Minister presumptive that it will elevate him above or level him with Kibaki, and vice versa.

These temporary positions will cease with the passage of a new constitution. Kibaki is going home while Raila is bidding to become the new Sheriff in town. The constitution should not be written with a view to protecting either the incumbent or promoting the interests of the aspirant.

Any perceptions of the future based on the current flawed situation will undermine objective decision-making at the referendum.

Which is why, in the current review process, politicians should take a back seat in public awareness. The hardline positions being associated with PNU and ODM with regard to the devolution of power all pander to myopic and selfish interests and they should not be allowed to poison the public. A repeat of 2005 must be avoided.

We should not view the two positions with the blinkers of past monsters. There is nothing essentially wrong with the title of President or Prime Minister. But as it will become clear from the draft to be published tomorrow, the country is being put on a dicey experiment with different systems of government.

The bottom line of all our problems is the excessive executive power vested in the President, which has been abused in the past, and lack of adequate checks that led to flagrant abuse of rights, economic mismanagement and discrimination.

To curb those two weaknesses, we do not need to blow up government disproportionately in the name of devolution.

We are just about to complicate our system of government by providing for numerous structures and elections for counties, Parliament, regions, and what not. This will inevitably burden the country with too much government and administration, which may not amount to better democracy or efficiency.

Representation and democracy isn't cheap; with every level of government comes additional costs and bureaucracy. Yet, people simply need to be facilitated to go about their lives unhindered by authorities.

I want less government and more freedom. I want to choose my mayor, councillor, MP and President. I want a President who is Head of State but who cannot run away with our country like is the case now.

I am not willing to give away that democratic right to elect that President to any representative or institution however cherished. The vote has to be direct and he or she has to be answerable directly to me, the voter.

The rest of the experimental hierarchies being created in our constitution are inspired by fear of domination, marginalisation and an insatiable human desire to control or be part of every little thing.

They are expedient for politicians but expensive to citizens.

I am yet to understand how the Committee of Experts figured out the 14 regions, for example, at a time when debate is raging about redrawing constituency and provincial boundaries.

Do we need to fragment our country into 14 federal regions with representatives in a Senate or should it comprise of representatives of our 41 tribes? Do we need a chamber to approve laws enacted by MPs or should we just strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary with a solid foundation in the Constitution?

I wonder. What I know, though, is that given our complicated ethnic equations, a unitary Republic led by a popularly elected President is still the best.

Makali is the director of The Media Institute, dmakali@yahoo.com

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