No use sending MPs home now

Kenya National Assembly in session.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In this whole affair, the CJ has steadfastly stuck to the letter of the Constitution, often warning about the dire consequences of ignoring its implementation timelines.
  • The MPs should by now have discovered why voters have become so disenchanted with them that they celebrate at any chance of doling out punishment.

Does anyone seriously believe that President Uhuru Kenyatta is about to dissolve Parliament and send its members home just because the Chief Justice has advised him to do so?

Should that turn out to be the general consensus, it means too many people are either living in the fantastical La-la land, or they are deep into wishful thinking. It simply won’t happen.

Too much is at stake and the cure may turn out to be worse than the disease if you look at the issue unemotionally.

Chief Justice David Maraga’s deeply jolting advisory is reminiscent of the precedent-making ruling in which a majority in the Supreme Court nullified the 2017 election results that led to repeat presidential polls and culminated in extremely sour relations between the Executive and the Judiciary.

 The ensuing war of attrition between the two has in the past three years manifested itself in various ways during which ordinary Kenyans have emerged the eventual losers as the smooth delivery of justice has been severely compromised.

Few hard truths

However, at the end of the day, the advisory should drive home a few hard truths. First, judging from the immediate reactions, not too many Kenyans like their legislators, and they wish them gone like yesterday.

The MPs should by now have discovered why voters have become so disenchanted with them that they celebrate at any chance of doling out punishment.

 Secondly, the much-touted equality between the three arms of government is a myth. In practice, each arm has frequently tried to upstage the other, and the rule of law has suffered during the pissing contests.

There is also the issue of ego trips by the major players. Some people believe the Chief Justice may merely be seeking to consolidate his legacy through rulings that reverberate globally.

Should that be the only conclusion, it would be grossly unfair. In this whole affair, the CJ has steadfastly stuck to the letter of the Constitution, often warning about the dire consequences of ignoring its implementation timelines.

However, Parliament, in its collective wisdom, simply ignored him instead of seeking to sort out the practical difficulties of implementing the two-thirds rule. How they expected the problem to go away on its own is beyond comprehension.

Also, this whole crisis seems to have little to do with women empowerment or the two-thirds gender rule. If you follow most of the arguments swirling around the possible dissolution of Parliament, few people, including the egg-head lawyers endlessly going heavy on semantics – whether “shall” means “may” or “must’’ — are really concerned about the nub of the matter: that Kenyan women have for ages been grossly under-represented in the country’s legislative and public service structure, and restitution is urgently called for. In fact, very few are mentioning women.

What is even more curious is that after actively sabotaging it for nine years, MPs are now claiming they always supported the two-thirds gender rule in principle, but implementation difficulties stood in the way. Tell that to the birds.

What is happening now is that survival instincts have at last come into play: Should Parliament be dissolved, it might mean the abrupt end of their political careers. Indeed, it is amusing to hear some argue that the move will, somehow, affect the presidency and Cabinet as well as the devolved units. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dragging this bogeyman all over the place is supposed to convince Kenyans that dissolution would be very unwise. Indeed, it is on the same level of mediocrity as the crowing by social media ignoramuses that this means the end of the Jubilee administration as presently constituted.

Electoral laws

How these people extrapolate dissolution with closure of the internecine wars in Jubilee Party is hard to fathom. Should Parliament be dissolved now, all would go home and few would make it back.

The other point of argument is even more difficult to understand. Many commentators, again in social media, take the advisory as a welcome repudiation of the contentious Building Bridges Initiative.

It is possible that implementing the BBI may be the only way to solve the two-thirds gender rule conundrum, for then, Kenyans would have a chance to amend it or do away with it altogether, but not everyone is convinced. However, the stark fact is that even if Parliament were dissolved today and another elected in its place, as long as the current electoral laws obtain, women will still be marginalised.

This is not simply because Kenya’s is a patriarchal society, which it is, but also because Kenyans elect the people they want for whatever reason and freedom of choice is also entrenched in the same Constitution. Maybe what Kenyans should be arguing about is how to change the electoral system from the first-past-the-post mode to some form of proportional representation.

In our situation, as detestable as this outfit has turned out to be, sending the 12th Parliament home will not be the solution. The past 11 were no better.

andrewngwiri@gmail.com