In my article of August 7, I raised the importance of national values in relation to national security. Shared values are the catalyst for a harmonious, peaceful and prosperous existence for a country.
One reader kindly emailed me afterwards and highlighted the litany of values we already have in the Constitution, but like many Kenyans, I always cotton on those enshrined within Chapter Six of the Constitution on Integrity and Ethics. Chapter 43 is also laden with values in terms of socio-economic rights. However, Article 10 details what Kenyan values ought to be.
I say ought to be, because, firstly, not many Kenyans are conversant with them, and secondly, the government fails to live by them. The beauty of the Constitution is that it is full of rights and values that can and ought to make the lives of every Kenyan comfortable, safe and secure. There is need, therefore, to sensitize Kenyans to those rights. It will remove the tension that currently exists between the public, politics and politicians.
The national values in Article 10 are precisely found at Chapter 2a, b, c and d. The national values and principles of governance include: a) Patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; b) human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised, human dignity, general guarantee of equality; c) good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and, d) sustainable development. This is a mouthful of values.
There are nearly 20 of them and with duplication roles, with some such as human dignity and equality appearing twice. It looks like a list rushed through during the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. We now need capsule size values that jump off our tongues and easily memorised by all Kenyans and equally easy to live by. Something like the French model of Liberte, Fraternite and Egalite values would be a good example to have. Liberte (Liberty), which means freedom for all. Fraternite (Fraternity), meaning a group of people sharing common interests. Egalite (Equality), simply meaning equality for all.
It is important to rethink the values we have in order to interrogate whether the ones in the Constitution have served us well thus far. Given the recent hue and cry on tribal appointments to government positions where only a handful of Kenyan tribes benefited, it is important to ask whether values on equality and non-discrimination were adhered to.
Public participation is another value that has been pushed to the back seat as the government unilaterally makes decisions without consultation. One area of concern is in deployment of Kenya Defence Forces abroad with little input from the country on whether the move is of any tangible benefit to Kenya. The other is the issue of open visa policy that has become synonymous with the current administration without consideration of the socio-economic impact of such decisions and of course the country’s security.
There is no value that has gotten a beating than that of the democratic pillar. This is a pillar that is the cornerstone of Kenya’s socio-economic strength. It has been weakened by the desire to solidify power in the hands of the ruling parties. The recent defection of elected politicians from other parties such as ODM to UDA without the defecting politicians losing their seats shows Kenya is yet to internalise democratic values. These changes happened without the consultation of the voters – that is the public. Politicians again change a key democratic value for selfish interests. Democracy means a government for the people by the people. In our case, once elections are concluded, politicians divorce democracy out of the political system and hence we always end up with almost a one-party State. We are a democracy by name, only given the musical chairs of party hopping without by-elections and lack of a strong opposition.
Equality and Integrity
National values must be effective and realistic, and objectives of which can easily be realised. There is need, therefore, to do away with the current long list and replace it with those that can easily roll off our tongues and all Kenyans can rely upon to achieve the country’s aspirations free of political encumbrances. What are key values we need then? Let justice by our shield and defender is a key line in our national anthem. Justice, Equality and Integrity is my suggestion. I am sure other Kenyans have better ideas too of short, memorable values that encapsulate what we want to be as a nation that wishes to be bound by common interests.
The right place to start building on and preserving national values is at the political stage — by respecting democratic values and processes. The quasi-democratic system we currently have, where the ruling party undermines other parties by poaching elected politicians without by-elections, undermines all other values a democratic society needs to prosper.
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher, [email protected]. @Kdiguyo