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Friday, January 22, 2010

Presidency: Reducing Institution to Personality

By Guest Writer

Come on Kenyans, let us get our priorities right for once and have the cart behind the horse. This animal called the presidency is the singular source of all the ills afflicting Kenya and until we rectify and straighten that institution we will only succeed in bandaging a festering wound with devastating consequences.

The constitutional order was never the problem for Kenya. Rather, the problem has been and will always remain the abused institution of the presidency, debased by tribal shenanigans and left to rot by a "below-the-threshold" civic consciousness, low energy and rudderless political participation by the Kenyan people.

To create a proper constitutional presidency takes thorough-going measures to establish formal permanent structures to manage the presidency. These structures must create a process for how the presidency functions; develop goals and action plans for achieving presidential agenda, time frames and a reporting mechanism for the accomplishments of the presidency. Kenyans can then begin to make sense of the institution, weigh its actions against its goals and agenda and, evaluate its excesses based on a known set of parameters referencing constitutional provisions and limits of presidential action.

As things stand, the presidency in Kenya operates by rule of the thumb, has a limited executive apparatus consisting of a state comptroller, a press secretary and a security details. Think about it, how can this outfit effectively manage presidential programs?! The president's involvement in national issues, under these circumstances, becomes residual and the presidential routine includes such mundane roles as signing legal notices, receiving ambassadors credentials, attending ceremonial functions etc.

Lords of Impunity
There is much more that a broadened presidency can do. It can act as a centre for the expeditious implementation of important socio-economic agenda that meets the expectations of the people.

Institutions that are not held accountable never reformed or restructured in any way become derelict. If Kenyans can separate the presidency from the president, the executive, as an institution, from the president and, if focused attention can be paid to the structure and facility of these institutions, they have a chance to function as organs for the pursuit of the integrity of the state.

Instead, we have a presidency without a structure, an administration that functions as the superintendent of the permanent bureaucracy, a government that reels under the disruptive impact of new dynamics associated with new administrations, absence of transitional structures to anchor the bureaucracy from the degenerative effects of administration change. The presidency has, historically, produced political impunity and hawkish ethnic power centres. All these elements sour the political landscape and make good governance untenable.

A president that knows he/she functions under the watch of an institutional rather than an individualized presidency, will, in most cases, be controlled and limited in what he/she can arbitrarily do or allow to be done.

Return of Imperialism
Any constitution, old or new, that does not guarantee the rule of law, that allows the president to feel and act as an omnipotent deity, that tempts tribes to want power so desperately, will never be a good constitution. Anytime a good constitution is combined with bad institutions the resultant practices and political behaviours will undermine the rule of law. This will often create the impression that the constitution is the problem. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In a nutshell we are not starring hell in the face for lack of preachers. Far from it, we have collectively and unwittinly allowed pretenders and little devils to lead us by the hand to hellhole.

We must hold our leaders to account so that they match the letter and spirit of our laws, period.


Anonymous said...

Instead, we have a presidency without a structure, an administration that functions as the superintendent of the permanent bureaucracy, a government that reels under the disruptive impact of new dynamics associated with new administrations, absence of transitional structures to anchor the bureaucracy from the degenerative effects of administration change. The presidency has, historically, produced political impunity and hawkish ethnic power centres. All these elements sour the political landscape and make good governance untenable.

Reading that paragraph, one can easily feel the anger tremors of activism from an NGO official desperate to paint a sordid picture of our current and proposed constitution and keep the rivers of donor funds flowing into his accounts.
Thruth does not mutate and Kenyans have said they want an accountable elected leader not someone getting power through the back door.

BTW guest writer, dont pass 'cousine' putrid gas on hungry Kenyans.

Kumekucha Prefect

Anonymous said...

^^^cuisine not cousine

Kumekucha Prefect

Anonymous said...

If the same powers were allocated to the Prime Minister's office, would you be happier? It seems to me you are the one reducing and equating the institution to a personality that you seem not to like.

JEFF said...

After all is said (and not done) I am just wondering what the push for a new constitution has always been about.

It is now evident that the clamour has never been about issues. It has always been about personalities. For example, why was the Wako draft rejected in 2005? How is the PSC proposal different from Wako draft? Was it because guys did not agree with Kibaki or was it about issues in the draft. Did certain people mobilise their supporters to reject the draft because some MOU was not honoured?

Let us come back to the PSC 'breakthrough'. This seems to have been achieved quite 'easily' and have a feeling there is something we are not being told. Are we being taken for another bumpy ride?

Is it because certain individuals now see the possibility of being president that has changed their opposition to the parliamentary system? Or is it internal party rivalries, where some people want to teach others a 'lesson', that are at play? If it is either of the above, are we going to get a document that will outlive these individuals, or we will be back to square one in a short while?

Even though i have been advocating for a presidential system, i don't think the consensus was reached after proper negotiations, especially when it comes to checks and balances on the presidency.

For example, in relation to parliament, how do we avoid having the same greedy characters we have been having? How will political parties be transformed to serve party members rather than individual party leaders and their cronies? What will be the controls on campaign financing, etc? Or will it be possible for e.g. al-shabaab to finance candidates to parliament.

Similar questions can be asked about the judiciary, and especially on the process of appointments.

The PSC has a duty to come up with water tight proposals on how to check the president's executive powers. Will they do it?

Anonymous said...

By the way, use GPS jammer to jam all secret devices in your room or at work.

Superieure said...

PNU. Do you guys ever play chess?

Think about it. Extremities. Tactics? A feint- as in the sport of fencing. Does the word fatuous mean anything?

In a day or two, more likely the latter, you will comprehend the allusions that I am referring to here.

For now PNU, fikiri or fikiria!

To be continued....

Vikii said...

Good attempted lecture on the ‘dangers of the Presidency’ and by extension a presidential executive. So now what do you propose as a remedy to these dangers?

If the problem is not the constitution as you say, and it is this constitution that the President swears to defend and protect (and from where we expect him to derive his powers and duties), then is any deviation from what the constitution provides not a personal violation by the President whom you advise should be divorced from the institution of the Presidency? Looks to me like you are demonizing the Presidency/a Presidential system of government based on the performance of the bad Presidents we have had. I am waiting for the man or woman who will tell me how a Prime Minister for example would not abuse the same privileges our presidents have been abusing. We should be getting proposals on how to empower those institutions charged with checking the executive and those charged with aiding it (making it more effective and responsive to the people) as opposed to unleashing adjectives popularized by the media like ‘imperial’. For heaven’s sake we can also have an imperial Parliament, an imperial office of the Prime minister, or even an imperial government inspector.

Or better still, since you seem to view the Kenyan Presidency as both presently structured and as proposed elsewhere as very skeletal, which additional offices within the Presidency do you suppose should be factored in besides the State comptroller, the head of the PPS and the security officers to make the Presidency more effective?

Injeraz said...

Why is ODm obsesses with PM? is it just the sound of the words that makes you happy? Pm or president as long as its checked is okay. but parliamentary system in Kenya will not work. look how useless the so-called political parties are. In any case, Obama called Raila and told him to accept President system and ODm fell in lock-step. lol, yaani there are no independent minds in ODM? lol, Raila thinks the Western powers love him and they're just using him.

Injeraz said...

The system the PSC has advocated is actually excellent. I'm surprised at how good it is...the executive and parliament totally separated from each other. kudos to PSC.

Injeraz said...

In Angola they are complaining about a parliamentary system that the prez forced through. why do we want that here, it will breed instability and bribery to the highest bidder in parliament.

Anonymous said...

PSC has done a good job. If they provide for proper procedures for the appointment of holders of constitutional offices, and do away with the kadhi's Courts, not even Raila's spirited campaigns will make the PSC constitution fail at the referendum.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Taabu, for upgrading my comment to the level of "Guest Writer". Thanks for the thoughtful opening paragraph and the other edits you added.

The new first paragraph, however, creates the impression of a "for-or-against-the presidency" argument. Far from it, my point was that we can have a good presidency with a set of formal organs (NOT the college of ministries known as the office of the president), institutional provisions and functions to channel the actions and powers of the presidency into clear, targeted and measurable programs.

It is disappointing for anyone to reduce reflections on this important conversation into support for or opposition to the issuance of a "letter of allotment" for the presidency to a tribe. The constitution or Kenya's well-being cannot be a simple "money or the box" argument as those who see this as a PM or Presidency debate would have us believe.

If we are to create good institutions for our country, we must candidly discuss what ails our existing system. This way, we can come up with better informed solutions for the future. I have always believed that a president who will transgress a bad constitution will not respect a good one either. For this reason, we have to identify ways to genuinely limit and check the powers vested in any office created by any (presidential or parliamentary system) constitution.

It is healthy to reform and restructure institutions to make them function better. The constitutional review process has given credence to a "slash and burn" philosophy that suggests we can only be a better governed country by replacing existing institutions.

Anonymous said...

Kenya needs a stable executive, legislation and judiciary totally independent from one another.

1) The president should be a national figure voted overwhelmingly by Kenyans with over 50.1%. A re-run is a must and must be stated clearly in the constituition. If he is a member of a political party, his party must be of a national character AND NOT a coalition of TRIBES, RELIGION, REGIONS, ETC.

His cabinet and all other appointed officials must be ratified by the parliament and the senate.

He must fire any of his officials who is involved in corruption or crime, otherwise the senate and parliament must impeach him. This will enable a culture of impunity to be done away with.

2)The parliamentarians should serve for 3 terms only and earn a fixed amount of not more than 30-times amount earned by a P1 teacher. The Speaker should be named President of the National Assembly (PNA) and should be in charge of the smooth running of the house. Once elected, an MP should NOT be a member of the cabinet (to avoid MPs supporting the President to be "rewarded" after election).

3) The Senate should consist of 8 elected Provincial leaders, and representatives of the counties. The provincial leaders should be named Provincial Presidents (PP). There should be no gender discrimination NOR seats reserved for women and men.

4)All positions of judges should be advertised. The Law society or any law professional body should forward the names to the parliament for ratification after which the president will sign their contracts. A judge's contract should not exceed 10 years.

5)Political parties must be based on ideologies ONLY. Their numbers must be reduced to 3. The ideologies should be Socialist, Capitalist, Environmentalist, Tradition conservationalists, communists, etc.

Names like ODM,PNU,should go. Independent candidates should get at least 10000 signatures to vie for parliamentary seats.

Let's wish Kenya success.

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