Monday, June 25, 2012

MPs’ greed is a recipe for a revolution

Sunday Nation 24 June 2012

The Kenyan citizen is approaching a watershed moment in her struggle against a tyrannical plutocracy. Our Members of Parliament are in a staring contest with the rest of us, and they are confident that we will blink first.

It was clear to all of us why the old constitution needed to be changed, and the urgency of this change was brought home by the horrendous violence that followed our last election. We were clear that we did not want a system where any one individual or institution could lord it over the rest of us with impunity. We wanted a government in which we had a say, and where the voice of the citizen could be heard and obeyed.

Checks and balances

We set up in the Constitution what we thought was a system of checks and balances, with the ultimate check for all arms of government being the sovereign, the people collectively. The Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the independent commissions could exercise oversight over each other, but mwananchi stood head and neck above all of them.

Indeed, the Constitution recognised the supremacy of the people, and provided, in the very first article, that: “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya, and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution”. All organs of state therefore operate only on delegated or donated power, and the citizenry have the implicit authority to recall that power and reassign it as they will.

It is, however, becoming clearer with every passing day that our MPs are hell-bent on reversing these provisions. They have embarked on a scheme to bankrupt the people by providing for perks and emoluments that were never contemplated in the Constitution.

They have provided for enhanced allowances for themselves, and given themselves a retirement package as if being an MP is a profession from which one retires. They have further demonstrated that they are willing to change the law to suit their desires, including tampering with the requirements for leadership and integrity provided for in the Constitution and other written law.

The stock excuse, which would be untenable in any other self-respecting society, has been that they are operating under the old constitution. It, therefore, appears that there are two sets of constitutions in existence in Kenya today – one for the politicians and another for the common citizen.

This, in my opinion, is the surest route to a true revolution in this country. In a country where the ruling elite consider themselves to be above the dictates of law or morality, a society where laws are either changed or broken to suit the whims of a small clique, the lowly citizen has nothing left to lose.

As we learnt from the Arab Spring, this hapless citizen will immolate herself if that will ensure that her children and grandchildren will stand a better chance after the ensuing revolution. In many instances, the spark of a revolution is a solitary act of despair, a final acceptance of defeat involving the elimination of oneself from the equation.

Our politicians must not sit pretty and think the suffering masses are eternally powerless. They are immensely powerful, and only require a shove in the right direction before they start an avalanche that will only be stilled when there is no more space to occupy.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and a lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine; twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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