Our democracy has immensely grown since the repeal of Section 2A of the previous Constitution. A detour back to a long presidential term or increased limit is a dicey quagmire.
One only needs to go back into history to recall the issues leading to the repeal of the clause in the law.
In Africa, extended terms have awakened tyrannical tendencies and led to dictatorships. They have also muzzled press freedom, curtailed freedom of expression, fostered minimal or no accountability, encouraged human rights violations, detentions and arrests and made room for total disregard of the rule of law. Yes, untamed power emboldens the meekest of us.
On the other hand, shorter presidential terms tame power and allow for rotation in leadership.
Since 2002, because of shorter presidential terms, Kenya has been stable and peaceful. Recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta peacefully handed over power to President William Ruto in a transition devoid of resistance or violence.
The Constitution allows for at most two five-year terms, which, in all fairness, is enough. A leader focused on the agenda will be effective within that time. Should it be prolonged, factors such as the following could affect the momentum: Laxity, sense of entitlement, slowed agenda and abuse of power. A leader is most effective when operating within a contained window. A short term drives one to leave a quality legacy.
A term limit also allows for a meteoric rise of presidential potential from the ambitious citizenry. Therefore, the national cake may finally go around fairly among the over 40 ethnic groups.
Lastly, changing the presidential term requires consensus to amend the Constitution and also call a referendum. These require funds. But Kenyans still have other issues to grapple with. The citizens are hungry, taxes are getting heavier with food prices increasing. May we choose paths that strengthen our country’s democracy as opposed to taking us back into oblivion.
Ms Osogo is a law student at the University of Nairobi. [email protected].