December 18th 2017

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Parameters for ethnic inclusion should be in constitution

In fact, when referring to the collapsed Okoa Kenya referendum proposal, it was expected that a provision for rotational presidency was going to be included in the questions for the referendum vote.

By Dimba Jakobuyadimbadavid@gmail.comWednesday, 29 Jun 2016 21:45 EAT

Lack of inclusive participation in government has been blamed for most problems bedeviling most African government systems. This is usually evident after the conduct of general elections when formation of new governments is based on or informed by the winner-takes-it-all mentality. The unfortunate eventuality has led to some regions in the country being marginalized in terms of development priorities.

The best that our national constitution should have done in this regard was to take into account the ethnic diversity of regions and provide, by law, for mandatory inclusion of all regions of the country in the government formation processes. As has been pointed out by many political observers, there is imminent danger that communities from certain regions may 'conspire' politically to ensure power is retained only within such regions at the expense of other communities.

It goes without stating that a good constitution ought to be a document which balances and rationalizes the acquisition of political power among the diverse ethnic groups that make up the nation. It is in the attempt to address the political misnomer associated with concentration of political power in certain regions that some countries in advanced democracies introduced and practice the concept of rotational presidency.

In Kenya, for instance, a similar suggestion has been made to forestall the possibility of having some regions of the country perpetually marginalized in terms of transition of power. In fact, when referring to the collapsed Okoa Kenya referendum proposal, it was expected that a provision for rotational presidency was going to be included in the questions for the referendum vote.

When you hear leaders from certain Kenyan communities or political parties bragging that they will rule the country for up to 100 years, the remarks are attributable and quite telling of a situation that desperately calls for need to fix the problem constitutionally. Such remarks do not only smack of hate speech but also fuel the formation of a fertile ground for advocating cessation as alternative to or antidote for that phenomenon.

In justifying and entertaining of this school of thought, history is replete with political circumstances and consequences that led some countries to allow some regions to secede from control by other regions. A recent case was witnessed in the neighborhood when the Christian-majority South Sudan seceded from the Muslim-dominated Sudan in the north. It is a scenario depicting a stark reality of the point.

Conscientiously, religious or tribal animosity or differences can trigger such political developments. Thus it would be difficult to achieve  national cohesion in a country whose power structures are not equitably distributed.

Since the Kenyan constitution was not cast in stone, it may be imperative to rethink of how best it could be politically reengineered to take care of that natural predicament in our history. Kenyans should not be allowed to disintegrate due to a lack of constitutional mechanism to promote national cohesion.

Suffice it to remember that the peace negotiations that were held following Kenya's post-election violence of 2008 acknowledged the critical need for inclusion in government of leaders of the diverse Kenyan communities when the peace deal brokered by the Eminent African Leaders headed by Kofi Annan agreed on a set of proposals that included the creation of more seats in the executive branch of government. The power sharing arrangement essentially underscored inclusive approach to decision making in the new government of national unity.

When the proposals were enacted into the constitution, the post of Prime Minister and its deputy became a game changer in bringing peace. There was also an element of unity in the country as opposed to the current state of affairs where leaders pay lip service to the calls for unity while sowing seeds of discord. This is hypocritical, so to speak.

It is instructive that the coalition government of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga was the most stable government of national unity to rule Kenya despite the occasional wrangles that characterized its administration. Political bickering aside, Kenyans experienced relative peace, reforms and development during the Kibaki-Raila era and that was a consequence of inclusive politics.

The writer was aide de camp to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga for a decade and later served as personal assistant for Raila Odinga for a similar period. His most recent assignment was as an elections operations specialist for SPLM in Unity State, South Sudan and technical support assistant in the Office of the Governor. He is currently an independent political strategist and special projects writer for the Kenya Free Press.

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