Pheroze Nowrojee: Constitution-hungry public call the shots - The Star

A New Year poll found out that Kenyans want a new constitution, cheaper prices for food and jobs in 2010.

This is the astonishing triumph of democratic forces in our country over backroom mafias and out-of-date politics.

It is all the more valuable that the new constitution takes precedence over the other two basic demands.

The poll expresses a great deal to those politicians whose task it now is to pilot the new document into becoming our new fundamental law.

Firstly, that a common concern has become of equal importance with the more individual concerns of daily life. Politicians will no longer find it as easy to exploit poverty and need as they did in the past. A fresh constitution has become as basic a demand as food and employment.

Secondly, that the new constitution is a massive national hope. Huge hopes are being placed on it. Politicians will dash these hopes at peril to their own political futures.

There are expectations that the new constitution will help in many ways. It will be a Truth Justice and Reconciliation step in itself. The new constitution will be part of the truth being told.

Our leaders have to know that we know who is responsible for the harm of the past and the mess of the present. It is most of these 'leaders' themselves. By the change, they will acknowledge that.

The new constitution will be part of the justice we have fought for. It will require government action to be based not upon personal gain, but on national aims.

These are social justice and the equitable sharing of resources and decision-making. The actions of our leaders will be tested against stated national goals. Basic rights will be increasingly enforceable as we move forward.

The new constitution will also be a part of reconciliation. We want all our leaders (of now and the future) to be prevented from using ethnic politics for any reason, much less for their personal advancement and enrichment. We want our politics to reflect national tolerance and concern for all.

These are huge expectations. Kenyans are aware that they will not be attained without a new document. Every single 'leader' has now got the message that he or she cannot be seen to be the one who is thwarting these expectations. Such a leader will be punished at the ballot box and out of it. There is now an immediate cost to blocking change. Dashing these national hopes is a dangerous political strategy. It will not be an acceptable exercise of leadership.

Thirdly, these massive national hopes are a massive national demand. The realisation of these hopes is a palpable and major political demand on every MP, minister, and party official. And every PS.

Ths is not about the interests of the present 42 ministers or the interests of the present 222 MPs. It is about the interests of future Kenyans. They will live under a constitution that will ensure as much as we can, that they will not suffer in a Nyayo House torture chamber, or have the national treasury robbed by Presidents or Prime Ministers, or extra-judicial executions, or political assassinations. This is not about the interests of small cliques, cabals and mafias. It is not about the interests of PSs.

They wield huge power without any accountability. They have entered the fray, through Francis Muthaura, the Cabinet Secretary and Thuita Mwangi, PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Affecting the outcomes on the new constitution without being noticed and without public scrutiny, is power without responsibility. That is the prerogative of another and older profession.

But now PSs too know that this huge demand is not capable of being ignored any more. The temptation for them is to ignore that demand and do whatever they want. This is because they have the power to bring about the opposite of what the public wants. This power is hidden, and therefore dangerous. But even PSs are not exempt from this huge public demand.

The New Year's poll will now make them take public opinion into account, even if they have previously chosen to regard it as an irrelevant variable that has never affected them. PSs too are the servants of the people. They too might find their services terminated by their master. The constitutional expectation is not about the choice of 40 powerful PSs. It is about the choice of 40 million Kenyans who wield even more power.

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.