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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Referendum 2010 - the winners and losers

By Javan Onguru

Watching the Referendum results trickling in last evening at the speed of light (was Kivuitu watching?), I couldn’t help but think about the winners and losers in this whole affair. Everyone's saying there are no winners or losers, but let's be serious: it was a contest, and every contest has winners and losers.

The obvious winners are the Kenyan people—kudos, wazalendo. Of course there’s also the blue-eyed boy of Kenyan elections, the man of the moment, Ahmed Isaack Hassan; the man who did what disgraced Samuel Kivuitu could never, even after many, many, attempts. Another surprising winner is William Ruto.

When he started playing musical chairs with his stand on the draft constitution (despite being among it’s chief negotiators, and even asked Kenyans to back it), few understood what he was up to. There was talk that he had been compromised and was a beneficiary of Evangelist Pat Robertson’s money, but many weren’t sure. Now it emerges that all this while he was simply securing a constituency. Selfish, but genius. Pity he had  to drag the whole of Rift Valley through the mud, blinding them with untruths and half-truths to achieve his ends. The new constitution prescribes running mates, ushering Kenya into a mature brand of politics. All Ruto has been doing these past few months is positioning himself for 2012, and the Referendum credentials are out there for anyone interested in a running mate. But all this work seems to have been in vain, as he probably will be at The Hague by then.

Moving swiftly onward to the ignominious failures, retired president Daniel arap Moi stands out like a sore thumb. I don’t know exactly what beef Moi has with Constitutions, but he now has the distinction of being against both Constitutions of the Republic of Kenya. Back in 1960s, he was very vocal against the Lancaster Constitution, but he eventually thawed out. This time round, I doubt he will. But it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

As any child will tell you, Moi was vocal against the draft law for very personal and selfish reasons. All that has been running through the pensioner’s mind ever since the the Uhuru Project came a cropper and his subsequent relegation to obscurity has been how to protect his ill-gotten wealth. Period.

It’s an open secret that between them, the three Royal Families of Kenya—the Kenyattas, the Mois and the Kibakis—own an estimated 700,000 acres of land, divided thus: Kenyattas 500,000; Mois 150,000 and Kibakis the rest. It was therefore comical to see Uhuru campaign for a constitution that is going to focus sharply on Land Reform, and in particular where and how old Jomo came to acquire such mind-boggling acreage. Enter another loser in this Referendum 2010 saga. Hopefully, as promised by Lands Minister James Orengo, Land Reform will pick up pace, and all holding on to illegally gotten land should face the law presently. It is quite clear that Moi's condemnation of the draft is a weak attempt to undermine a very good document using generalisations.

Another big loser in my estimation is the Kenyan Church. Eerily silent as Kenyans slaughtered one another resulting from Kibaki’s lapse of judgement, they suddenly popped out of the woodwork only to squander any goodwill and benefit of doubt they had left. By accepting funding from the American Christian right and effectively going to bed with them and fighting their battles on Kenyan soil, their message was clear: It’s all about the money, folks. Never mind that Kadhi’s courts have been part of Kenyan law since 1895 when the Sultan of Zanzibar leased Mombasa to the British, and indeed played a large part in those negotiations. Ultimately, it was carried into the 1963 Constitution. Concerning the “contentious” abortion clause, the less said the better. It transpires that most of the churches leading opposition to the new constitution on the grounds that it "allows abortion" shockingly have rules allowing the procedure where the life of the mother is in danger. So who’s fooling who?

In the end, as has been the constant refrain during this referendum's campaigns, we must all accept the results, as hard as they may be to swallow, and strive to work together to build a better Kenya. We must also learn to accept opposing views and not stigmatise others for holding that view. Most importantly, we must be wary of people using us for narrow ends, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who are bent on taking us back to the cusp. Seeing as we’re constantly in campaign mode—this being our fourth in eight years, with one more scheduled for 2012—we must take this lesson seriously and for once, start voting for issues, and not personalities.

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