Sunday, May 6, 2012

Culture of duplicity continues in our politics

Sunday Nation 06 May 2012

In the beginning, it was very difficult for Kenyan leaders to resign honourably from positions in government.
However, with the advent of the new constitutional dispensation, leaders are having less difficulties resigning from posts in order to pursue other interests. This is a commendable development, and must be encouraged.

Indeed, Kenyans should require all the members of Parliament who have defected from their sponsoring parties to quit Parliament and seek a fresh mandate from their voters. This is not just idle opinion, but is actually required by the law. It should be made clear that their persistence in disobeying the law only demonstrates that impunity continues to reign supreme in our governance structures, and it will take a major thought revolution to slay this monster.

In this regard, of course one may interrogate the positions of the two deputy prime ministers of Kenya. For varying reasons, both have resigned from their ministerial portfolios as well as their party positions and joined or are in the process of joining other parties in their quest for the country’s presidency.

Curiously, though, they have both cited the National Accord that was embedded in the previous Constitution as the justification for remaining in office as Deputy Prime Minister. Specifically, they have cited the provisions of section 4 (4) of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, which provides that:

“The office of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister shall become vacant only if-
(a) the holder of the office dies, resigns or ceases to be a member of the National Assembly otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of Parliament; or
(b) the National Assembly passes a resolution... that the National Assembly has no confidence in the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, as the case may be; or
(c) the coalition is dissolved.”

In citing this law, the two leaders have either forgotten or overlooked one small detail that would resolve this matter once and for all. Having resigned from their other Cabinet positions, what stops them from resigning from their positions as Deputy Prime Minister?

Does the National Accord bar them from resigning from these positions? Does the law tie their hands and force them to serve in the coalition government to its end? The answer to these questions is a resounding no.
If their resignation from their other positions was meant to be a mark of integrity allowing them to pursue their presidential bids unencumbered, their refusal to completely leave the Cabinet takes them back to square one.

It suggests that they only resigned in order to gain bragging rights on integrity, and not because they were following any moral or ethical injunctions. The law prohibits one from campaigning or popularising a party while belonging to another. It also provides that a member of Parliament loses their seat if they switch allegiance to a party that did not sponsor them to Parliament.

Going by these provisions alone, the two deputies to the Prime Minister and many members of Parliament should relinquish their parliamentary seats and any Cabinet posts they hold in order to face the voters again. If the law were strictly applied, Parliament would have been dissolved a long time ago for lack of quorum, and we would have had a General Election sooner than the March 2013 date given by the Electoral Commission.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and lecturer, Moi University school of medicine; Twitter @lukoyeatwoli

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