Pheroze Nowrojee: Family interests ruining reforms - The Star

Some ministers have accused the Committee of Experts of 'ignoring the views of Kenyans'.

Experts do not draft documents according to the number of e-mails they receive. Experts incorporate the views of the public in accordance with constitutionalism and constitutional law.

They further ensure that they take into account our history and the national problems that need solution, such as government by ethnicity, or inequitable allocation of resources to either a few Kenyans or a few communities.

Otherwise it would not be a document fashioned by experts but simply an opinion poll. As was pointed out, if a majority of views wanted a return to colonial government under the British Crown, the experts would neither oblige nor consider themselves bound by such 'views', even if contained in 1.7 million e-mails.

Two queries arise when we hear such accusations: is reform being blocked again, and are these vested interests speaking? These ministers themselves as Members of Parliament only a few months ago began the process of constitutional reform. They are now trying to ensure that it is not implemented. Because it brings change. This was how reform has been blocked for over 20 years.

Whenever the demand for change grew, reform laws would be passed, and then their implementation frustrated by delay, amendments, dissolving Parliament, getting court orders, buying members of Parliament, Old habits die hard. Blocking reform is what these ministers' press conference was all about.

How do they know 95 per cent of those e-mails were for the Presidential system? Do they know because they organised their sending? Cannot the views of a few individuals be multiplied by the smooth pressing of computer buttons into 'the wishes of a majority of the people'?

The time for 'the majority of the people' to choose will be in the Referendum. That will be the time all Kenyans will express their 'wishes'. This is why a Referendum is provided for : so each Kenyan can express a view in secret ballot regardless of what a few 'leaders' may express in premature press conferences. The vote may coincide with what these 'leaders' want. It may not.

It is for the people to express 'the views of the people', and not for this tiny group with vested interests. When have these ministers conducted "government of the people, by the people, and for the people"? Especially, "for the people"?

The composition of these ministers reveals the interests being protected. They say they now want "a presidential system with effective and sufficient checks against the abuse of power."

This is the vocabulary of reform. But it is being used to block reform. They failed to use these words when they were in Kenyatta's, Moi's or Kibaki's first government or during those times.

During each of those regimes there was even the "single centre of power" they now propagate so vocally. - Yet they failed to demand or implement "effective and sufficient checks" in those 40 years. The people of Kenya suffered badly by their failures. Can these same individuals now speak with credibility on behalf of the very people they excluded from the benefits of good government and put into poverty?

Two of the ministers belong to the same family. There was a time when one member of that family (Uhuru Kenyatta) was in Moi's Kanu, another (Muhoho) in Kibaki's Democratic Party (DP), another (Ngengi Muigai) in Matiba's FORD-Asili, and another (Beth Mugo) in the Social Democratic Party.

In 2002, two went to Narc and power. Later, three went to PNU. Some Kenyans may be forgiven for feeling that for this family, one member must always be in whatever regime is in power, so as to protect the family's extremely substantial interests.

When persons with such interests loudly proclaim that they are voicing the interests or 'the views of the people' or even of their own ethnic community, we ought to be rightly sceptical whether these are not just the interests of only one family and a few others being voiced.

The recent calls and rallies are not about a change of generation but only about a change of family member at the top.

Such temporary alliances of politicians are short-term caucuses united only in personal interest, in the uncaring disregard of the poor and in the predatory protection of wealth acquired during office. They do not speak in the national interest.

The writer is a lawyer.

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