Ars Politico Africanae: Draft Kenyan Constitution

What is the big deal. For me, as an outsider who has only been here for about a year, a couple points jumped to mind which in my opinion would help Kenya greatly in the future. First off, a devolved government, losing complete centrality in Nairobi, is called for. Gone would be the provinces, with their direct connections to the Office of the President, and in would come states, counties, and towns, each with their own government. I feel this would really put more of a burden on people, more pressure on people, and might also create more of a sense of opportunity. If trying to set up some type of development-oriented program, and you are constantly facing these nameless, faceless hurdles in faraway Nairobi, you are going to feel powerless. However, if your main hurdle is an office that you can walk to, you might be more inspired to work with the system, or fight it if necessary.

Second, there is a more clear delineation between the offices of the President and Prime Minister. Theoretically the President would become a more ceremonial, “Head of State,” while the Prime Minister would become a more practical, “Head of Government.” My biggest concern here however is that the, “ceremonial,” President would still control the army. Those are going to be some rockin’ ceremonies if you ask me. In a country now proven to succumb to political violence, separating control of army from control of government spells disaster and coup. Many Kenyans are also concerned with such developments, and in general, with a two-style government (presidential and parlimentary), although there is actually the opposite concern of mine, that in fact the President would become a lame duck.

It has been interesting living in Kenya through most all of this (except the initial violence thankfully). It’s amazing how ineffective governments can be in some things while other parts continue on their way. I am very concerned over trying to implement a new constitution in this climate. The response I get my from fellow teachers when I express concern about the situation is that Westerners are judging to harshly, that Kenya is stable. I ask if they have read the BBC reports about weapons traffic? No, they almost all respond, it’s news to them. I ask about the increase in violence in Nairobi, and I am told I am overreacting.

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