In the year 2010, we as the sovereign people of The Republic of Kenya betrothed unto ourselves a new constitution for our own social, political, moral et al development. This constitution is praised all over the world as one of the most progressive constitutions on planet earth.
We thought that by promulgating this constitution all our social, political and economic problems et al, would be solved at once. This has not been the case.
I have come to realize that the reason as to why we have not been making any progress with our lives all along is because we have never truly understood what is required of us by our constitution. One of the most important thing that is required of us is enshrined in Chapter One, verse one of our Constitution which talks about The Sovereignty of the People and Supremacy of this Constitution.
The very first article in our Constitution says;
(1) All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution.Constitution of the Republic of Kenya
(2) The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.
(3) ………. etc
Now, let’s start analyzing this 2nd sub-article, The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.
What do we mean by ‘people may exercise their sovereign power‘? What is this sovereign power that needs to be exercised? Well, let me tell you!
Use of Sovereign Power for Development in Kenya
This sovereign power is the ultimate responsibility of every Kenyan to determine
- What he/she should eat or drink.
- Where he/she should get food from.
- What to wear and how to wear it.
- Who to worship (Freedom of Worship).
- Who to elect as their leader.
- Where to live and work.
- (You can add as many as possible)
Then, ‘people may exercise their sovereign power‘ means that the Constitution has given each and every one of us the power to do the above-listed responsibilities and others not listed without fear, intimidation or deterrence. When we are exercising the above sovereign power, the Constitution gives us the choice to either exercise it either directly (ourselves) or indirectly (through our political leaders).
Problems in Kenya after indirect use of Sovereign Power for Development in Kenya
Now my fellow Kenyans, from the time we obtained our independence in 1963, we had somehow exercised this sovereign power indirectly. I can confidently say that we had surrendered almost 80% of this sovereign power to our political leaders.
This surrender was not necessarily a mistake of our own liking or doing but we were made to believe that the government of the day could provide everything for us, (that by self-rule the government could take care entirely of its citizens). Although there was a maiden call by our founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to “Turudi Mashambani”, resources to go and develop those areas were not adequately provided to all parts of Kenya.
But then, after we realized that the Jomo Kenyatta government only developed the areas where the President hailed from, we started a clamour to change the leadership. President Moi came, he did the same, We cried for his removal. President Kibaki came and repeated the same mistake.
By the time President Kibaki was in power the champions of the Second Liberation had realized that; it is not the government that is supposed to develop a nation for its citizens but the citizens through their Government. That is why the agitation for a new constitution reached the climax and finally, we got it
After we started implementing and living the new constitution in 2013, our mentality, thoughts, habits, our approach to things and our way of doing things drifted back to the era of the old constitution where we expected the government especially the National Government to do everything for us.
Kenyans, lets rise up to the occasion, lets smell the coffee! Times are not the same again! Things have changed! The world has become more competitive! The constitution changed! So let us also change!
Exercising our sovereign power indirectly has led to many fundamental problems in our Kenyan society today. A case in point is a farmer, in rural Kenya, who is expected to be the food producer asking the government for food rations, Ceteris paribus.
Some examples of other scenarios where we have failed to exercise our sovereign power directly is;
- Not managing the garbage from our houses saying that’s the County Governments work.
- Not protecting our forests from our own destruction (e.g. you know the charcoal burner but you say its the governments work to deter them)
- Not coming together as individuals to form cooperative societies and waiting for the government to tell us what to do with our lives. etc
One of the ways that we can change the status quo is to do a thorough civic education about the Constitution of Kenya 2010. People should be made aware of their roles as private citizens. They should know what they should do by themselves without thinking it is the role of the government.
The people should also be made aware of the roles of the leaders they elect to public offices. For example, the people should be told that the roles of the Member of County Assembly (MCA), MP, County Women Representative, and Senator are to
- Represent the people
- Legislate laws that will govern the people
- Oversight development projects being carried out in their area of jurisdiction.
The MCA executes his mandate at the Ward level, the MP at the Constituency level, the Women Rep and Senator at the County level.
The oversight role is the one that most people have never understood and most, unfortunately, even the leaders themselves and the learned. This role does not mean that the elected member is usually given money to dish out to members of the public, or to do development projects, no! These elected officials are not supposed to handle any public money.
These monies are supposed to be handled by the ministries and County Executive Committees. Therefore the elected official is required to make sure that the money is utilized in the best way possible and that development reaches all corners of their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The only entities mandated by the constitution to handle public money are the National Government and County Governments. These are the entities that should be oversighted first by the legislature.
A good example of how Kenyans have misunderstood this oversight role is their constant accusations and complaints that the elected leaders (MCA, MP, Women rep, Senators) are not taking development to their areas. Also, Kenyans are fond of thinking that once you are elected to public office then you become instantly rich and therefore you should shoulder any financial burden that exists among them.
Your excellencies the people of Kenya, the reason why our elected leaders behave the way they do is because we have burdened them with responsibilities that don’t belong to them. They don’t even have that money to contribute to Harambees. But because they don’t want to disappoint the people, they constantly increase their salaries and steal public coffers to put up with the insatiable monetary demands placed on them. So, to stop the greed by our legislature, let us stop borrowing money from them. Let’s solve our small societal problems within our Jambo (Jamii Bora) Homes
Ladies and gentlemen, I dare say that the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) is an illegal fund. This is because its existence is not anchored in the constitution. The role of a patron that the MPs have bestowed on themselves makes it hard for them to oversee the government projects. This is because when they are caught up in a scandal they get blackmailed, harassed and intimidated by the corrupt government officials and consequently rendered toothless dogs that cannot bite.
Development in Kenya After Embracing Direct Use of Sovereign Power
This is why the Constitution commands us NOW to ‘exercise our sovereign power’ first and foremost, directly, and if there is something that we can’t do directly then we delegate it to our democratically elected representatives.
Our Kenyan Constitutionally empowered society of the 21st century is not supposed to be told initially what to do to empower our lives, in contrast, we are supposed to tell the government where it needs to chip in, where it needs to supplement, where specifically it needs to fund in the projects that we have already started on our own volition, as Cooperative Societies.
Let’s come together as individuals with a common purpose and form cooperative societies in our respective Wards and Counties e.g Pyrethrum Farmers in Nakuru County can form Nakuru County Pyrethrum Farmers Farmers Cooperative Union in this way.
First and foremost, they will have created this Cooperative Society out of their own volition. This voluntary membership can be from the farmer with a 1-acre piece of land to those with hundreds of thousands of acres. This can benefit tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of farmers in that one county. The purpose and benefits of forming this cooperative would be;
- To get affordable and genuine farm inputs in large scale to enjoy the quantities of scale.
- To lobby the government as a large group for tax and duty-free capital goods importation.
- To easily get help from the government in case of a crop disease outbreak.
- To marshal funds for value addition of the pyrethrum produce like;
- Processing their own pyrethrum and selling the Pyrethrin extract directly to local and international consumers through e-commerce platforms like Alibaba and Amazon. This is better than waiting for the government and exploitative commercial industries to buy their pyrethrum at the farm level at throwaway prices.
- Producing animal feeds with the pyrethrum by-products, thereby maximizing on their profits.
I am very sure if Kenyan farmers and entrepreneurs in other economic sectors can organize themselves like shown above, no government whether County or National can fail to assist them to succeed in their venture. Even venture capitalists would fall head over heels in love with such cooperatives and invest their money there.
Conclusion, Lets embrace Direct Use of Sovereign Power for Development in Kenya
Finally, in summary, I would wish to say that this is the time that we as Kenyans should make a deliberate decision to leave behind the stale notion that the government will fix all our problems. These leaders come from the society we live in, and suffer the same problems. They cannot solve all these problems on their own, but the people can solve these problems with bits of help from these leaders.
First-things-first, let’s change our bad habits, our mentality, our approach to things, our way of doing things and stand commanded by our Kenyan Constitution that dictates that we should exercise our sovereign power directly first before opting for the indirect way.