Embrace a referendum Debate to Amend The constitution

Most Governors and Senators including CORD leader Raila Odinga want Kenyans to decide the future of the County governments through a referendum vote. They want a “clear mandate for the senate and devolution.”

That is a healthy debate. If it leads to a vote, so be it. However, Raila’s call for a referendum vote to decide on whether we should have a presidential or parliamentary system of governance is inconsequential and misplaced.

For the starters, our Kenyan problem hasn’t been the system of governance. Rather, our problems are inefficiency, corruption, impunity and tribalism. No system of governance can arrest these four enemies of our state without a national resolve to enhance our moral, ethical, legal and leadership integrity.

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Our successive central governments failed by institutionalizing corruption, dimwittedness, tribalism, nepotism and impunity. Sadly, there isn’t any tangible sign to promise and guarantee a prosperous Kenya under centralized government.

Yet in as far as county government, otherwise called devolved government is concerned, we have a great promise. Constituency Development Fund (CDF) tested that promise and found it worthy.

Through CDF disbursement, classrooms were constructed, dilapidated roads were repaired, bridges were constructed, temporary employment was created for young people on grass-root level, libraries were constructed and equipped and development was felt not just in Nairobi but in the villages as well.

If CDF is any indicator of what decentralization of power and resources can achieve, then County government is no doubt the future of our country. Devolution will ensure inclusive development of every corner of Kenya.

That’s a role county governments and the senate must guard jealously and play articulately.  Although county governments will require independence from central government they must be accountable to the central government and the people.

Unfortunately, this critical national discourse about empowering county governments and devolving more resources through a referendum vote has taken a political direction. Instead of being debated as a Kenyan issue, it is being viewed from the prisms of Jubilee, CORD, Luo, Kikuyu and Kalenjin.

It’s no longer about empowering County governments and senate on one hand, and on the other hand defining and separating the roles of the senate that appears to be in conflict with the roles of the National Assembly.

Yet, history shows that there is no one perfect constitution in the world. The fact that we are discussing first amendment to our constitution is a sure proof we are growing. Constitutions are not static but dynamic.  Take United States’ constitution from which writers of our Kenyan constitution borrowed heavily.

US constitution was adopted and ratified on September 17, 1787. Two years later, first amendments which are popularly known as “bill of rights” were proposed by the congress and ratified by the states.

Since then, Americans have amended their constitution 27 times. Constitutions are not cast in stones. They are living documents that must correspond to the needs of the living generation. That’s why we need a critical view of our constitution with open mind.

Let’s not fear a referendum debate. If we reach at a voting stage, don’t fear. Cast your vote and decide the future governance of our country. But above all, we should embrace devolved government, decentralize resources and empower county governments.

OP-ED By Jacktone Ambuka. You can reach me at email [email protected],

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