Law review must be about Kenyans and posterity, not the political class

Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli at his Kajiado home.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Atwoli unabashedly vouches for President Kenyatta to seek another term when his constitutional two-term tenure ends in 2022.
  • Where previously Mr Atwoli skipped naming titles and names, this time around he boldly suggested President Kenyatta may want to succeed himself.

Mr Francis Atwoli, the internationally highly regarded and locally the longest-serving Secretary-General of the umbrella Central Organisation of Trade Unions, tied himself in knots last week.

It was coming. Since late 2018, he has been consistently, loudly and, petulantly, trumpeting an increasingly explosive matter in a strikingly less-than-sensitive manner.

Mr Atwoli unabashedly vouches for President Kenyatta to seek another term when his constitutional two-term tenure ends in 2022. Therefore, he has been campaigning vigorously for a change of the constitution, whose enactment he outstandingly campaigned for between 2009 and 2010.

That means, one, expunging the two-term caveat from the basic law and or, two, creating an office of similar weight as the presidency. And this to circumvent the legal limit on presidential tenure and smooth the way for the re-emergence of Mr Kenyatta as President again or as prime minister.

So what was different last week? In an extensive interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Atwoli came across as suggesting he, and others of similar presidential succession persuasion, would make Mr Kenyatta president again.

Demanded a new role

Again, this is not new. Mr Atwoli has, time without number, and without prompting or provocation, since 2018, demanded a new role for Mr Kenyatta post-2022 in a new-look Executive. Indeed, he has maintained, provocatively, that Kenya's next president will be picked in a boardroom and not at the ballot.

But quite agitated, ostensibly on reading his own interview, Mr Atwoli accused the Sunday Nation of sensationalising the matter of Mr Kenyatta’s reincarnation. With alacrity, he sought to clarify that only Kenyan voters, and not members of the delegations he hosts at his Kajiado County home, can elect Mr Kenyatta.

But, he added, that’s after the Constitution has been changed via a referendum. This is a sea change for four reasons. One, Mr Atwoli proffers that the only seats that will be competitively contested in 2022 are legislative and gubernatorial, but the next president will be picked in a smoke-filled room deal.

Two, where previously Mr Atwoli skipped naming titles and names, this time around he boldly suggested President Kenyatta may want to succeed himself.

Three, Mr Atwoli gave credence to the widely rumoured reincarnation of Mr Kenyatta in a Moscow-style Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Medvedev swap of presidency and premiership.

Mr Atwoli’s remarks cast the much-talked about referendum as a conspiracy to bring about a Putinesque perpetuation of Mr Kenyatta in power. Note that the plebiscite will be proposed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a purpose-built political vehicle. This vehicle is owned by President Kenyatta and his foe-turned-fan Raila Odinga, and vociferously supported by Mr Atwoli and presidential confidant David Murathe.

Four, however, from Mr Atwoli’s remarks, President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and BBI, an issue of the detente (Handshake) between the two, looked crooked and wicked. And, obviously, Mr Atwoli had let on too much for the comfort of the plotters of the Kenyatta II succession.

Serve individuals

A swift clarification was in order! Now, permit me to swiftly repeat my positions. One, the Constitution must not be changed to allow President Kenyatta to serve another term, in whatever Executive capacity.

Similarly, the Constitution must not be amended for the purpose of stopping Deputy President William Ruto from succeeding the President, nor to pave the way for Mr Odinga to succeed President Kenyatta.

Why? Our Constitution must exist to serve the people and for posterity. It will stand the test of time because it serves the people and not because it can be manipulated to serve individuals, cliques and or regimes.

Change of the Constitution must, therefore, be driven by a commitment to serve the people and not to advantage an individual or regime and or disadvantage rivals.

Two, the campaign to change the law is premised on a false prospectus, namely that the winner-take-all poll format breeds violence because losers don’t share the high table.

This view falsely claims Kenya was on the verge of civil war in 2017 and expansion of the Executive will avert a repeat of the same.

This false narrative proves that the envisaged change of Constitution aims to serve the political class.

kwendo58@gmail.com