Moving politics … to the people

Linked to our presentation of Wahu Kaara – Kenya on January 25, 2006.

Also linked to our presentation of THE KENYA DEBT RELIEF NETWORK on January 25, 2006.

Moving politics from the hands of the few to the people – Interview with Wahu Kaara, delegate at the Kenyan constitutional conference “Bomas”, and chair of MS Kenyas Policy Advisory Board, by Dorthe Skovgaard Mortensen (see on Action with Attitude, :

There is no time for pessimism when Wahu Kaara, Bomas delegate nr. 521, talks about the constitutional process and the draft constitution that is now to be approved in parliament.

To Wahu Kaara the “new constitution reflects the yesterday of Kenya, it contextualises the today and it manifests the tomorrow”. In her view the former constitution had been mutilated in order to guarantee the survival of the state and the state dictatorship. It compromised democracy and the participation of people, while this new constitution redefines the need to establish a social contract between the people of Kenya and the state.

Service to the people:

Kaaras optimism is rooted in her experiences. “The constitutional process it self demonstrated the power of the people, and made it very clear that the state need legitimacy to exercise its power. The aim of the new constitution is not to sustain the presidency and tribalism but to give service to the people”.

From the outset of the constitutional process there has been much talk about the devolution of power in Kenya, and over time many concerns have been raised for and against. Wahu Kaara believes in a system where a prime minister has excessive powers and is chosen in his/her capacity to form a government. “A monarchial president leaves people with no access to checks and balances. In the new constitution the president remains the head of state and responsible of all that symbolizes the state; peace, security and identity, but he no longer has control and monopoly over government. In essence the prime minister is to design politics and implement them. A government must serve the people, not rule them”, says Kaara.

Political parties not platforms:

Kaara is cheering the emerging “ideologisation” of Kenyan politics and she trusts that the devolution of power will create an enabling environment for ideologies to flourish. “We are a multiparty democracy where parties are competing for members and votes by ‘selling’ ideology, visions and work plans”. We need strong parties based on ideology, not political platforms as today. The constitution cannot guarantee that, but it has made space for this development of ideology”.

“My vision for the future of Kenya is rooted in a clear ideology”, declares Kaara. This explains that she and only two other Kikuyus stayed while the government (mainly Kikuyus) walked out of Bomas after the approval of the paragraph on devolution of power. “ We must not fail now. The Bomas brought new actors to Kenyan politics, while the MPs could not stand the pressure, as they wanted to safeguard the monopoly of the president. The new constitution is the framework that will guarantee service to the people” says Kaara optimistically.

Referendum or not:

After the draft constitution was approved at Bomas III words have spread about the need for a referendum. Wahu Kaara does not believe in a referendum, partly because it is not needed since the process as it was agreed (without a referendum) has proceeded successfully, and partly because the government does not dare to take a referendum. “A YES to the constitution will discredit the government and force them to step down – and obviously they don’t want that” says Kaara and continues “Bomas was an eye opener to the ordinary people. They felt involved and the draft is their baby and they will vote it through”.

With a new constitution formed by the people, it is the hope of Wahu Kaara that the Kenyans will overcome the fear, confusions and despair that they have had towards the state and it is her hope that the values of the new constitution will constitute nationhood amongst Kenyans.

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