By Paul Mwangi
A look at the history of our country and the political and legal developments of the nation show how the government is attempting to play out an old script to achieve an old goal of the past tyrants who ruled this country.
I picked up a copy of my book, The Black Bar: Corruption and Political Intrigues Within Kenyaâ€™s Legal Fraternity, and was surprised at the similarities of our experiences in the past with what is happening now.
Both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi had amended the Constitution in order to offset the constitutional order and create an autocracy in which they were king. The way these amendments were achieved followed a script that President Uhuru Kenyatta is clearly following ostensibly to achieve the same result.
The first similarity is that all these amendments are sought in the â€œnational interestâ€. With Jomo, the â€œnational interestâ€ was the need to unite the newly-independent country and to fight off the former colonisers who were still maintaining a stranglehold on the new nation, and who wanted the new country to fail so that they may get a chance to get power.
With Moi, the â€œnational interestâ€ was the need to protect the country from â€œdisgruntled elementsâ€ who were working together with neo-colonialists referred to as â€œforeign mastersâ€ with the intention of disrupting the country, create despondency, foment rebellion and get a chance to get power.
With Uhuru, the â€œnational interestâ€ is the need to fight the opposition that is out to destabilise the government by propagating a ceremonial presidency that is ineffective in protecting the people from crime or delivering development, so that the government may fail and they get a chance to get power.
JOMO KENYATTA REGIME
Observing the constitutional amendments by the Jomo Kenyatta regime, the book says: â€œWith all issues painted either black or white, Kenyatta had no problem redrafting the Constitution and re-organising the structure of government. He convinced the African citizens that the colonial government had given them a constitution that would forever keep them divided and reliant on England.
The independent Africans thus examined with suspicion all the structures of government bequeathed upon them by the former colonisers, adopting a â€˜when in doubt, killâ€™ approach. Parliament began to sit way into the night, at times until midnight, debating on the independent constitution and amending itâ€.
A second similarity with these amendment initiatives is that they all use parliamentary majorities that are whipped by inciting emotions to prevent any meaningful debate.
The book observes the following regarding Moiâ€™s amendment to the Constitution to remove the security of tenure for judges:
â€œIn fact, rather than initiate any sensible debate on the matter, the Attorney-General let the Members of Parliament indulge in tomfoolery before they voted as government required. The members dug into the history of the Judiciary and raised instances where its members had failed. Top of the agenda were the sex scandals of judges like Justice Butler Sloss. No issue on constitutionalism and the rule of law was ever mentioned. When asked by Vice-President Josephat Karanja what should be done to judges who had erred, the House roared back in unison: â€œFire them!â€ The Bill sailed through with a 131-0 vote.â€
The third similarity is that in all these instances, the media is intimidated in order to keep the people in ignorance and prevent any understanding of the dangers posed by the amendments. In respect of Moiâ€™s amendments, the book says:
â€œThe Parliament that sat in 1989 was thus the worst ever â€¦ The House became known as Moiâ€™s rubber stamp. On June 28, 1989, it banned the countryâ€™s highest circulating newspaper, the Daily Nation, from reporting parliamentary proceedings after a motion of censure was passed against the paper for â€œpersistent misreportingâ€, â€œbeing anti-governmentâ€ and â€œtrying to create despondencyâ€.
Parliament, thus, helped Moi silence the only independent newspaper of the timeâ€.
The activists of the past fought against similar laws and they succeeded. One wonders then how President Uhuru Kenyatta hopes to win this one. What suppression tactics will he invent that have never been tried before? Both past tyrannical regimes tried assassinations, detentions, jailing, exile, economic sabotage, etc. Still it didnâ€™t work.
In fact, for the Uhuru regime, the cards are stacked against him. We now have opposition parties that were not there before. We also have a civil society, one so strong that government supporters call it the â€œevil societyâ€.
We also now have a judiciary that is almost completely independent. But most critically, we have been here before and we know where this is going. And we shall never accept it.
Paul Mwangi is the Chairman, Okoa Kenya Committee of Experts