by Abel Kinyondo

The promulgation of the new constitution in 2010 was received with such fanfare and hope by the Kenyan public like nothing before. Apparently this constitution was supposed to usher Kenya into a new world of prosperity and growth; good governance and ultimately sustainable economic development. Freedom of expression, human rights issues that are enshrined within this constitution were also thought to potent enough to take Kenya to a whole new level of democracy. Aspects of devolution were supposed to take out powers from the historically supreme president a good indication that the dictatorship era   begotten by the former president Daniel Arap Moi was dead and buried with the introduction of this constitution. Put it succinctly, the ratification of constitution in 2010 was billed as the most important political event in Kenya’s history since its independence in 1963.


Almost 5 years after the ratification of the constitution, one wonders whether the change of constitution was worth the cost of making it. Indeed, in 2015, Kenya was ranked as the 139th country out of 167 countries on perception corruption index with most of the countries beneath it either in the state of war or under absolute dictatorship. There can be so many examples to give of corruption scandals in Kenya. For instance, recent corruption scandals have forced several Cabinet secretaries to resign after six months of public pressure.


The biggest devil in details though is persistent of tribalism in Kenya years after the new constitution came to pass. As they say, Kenyans are first and foremost loyal to their families, then their clan (extended family), then their tribe. Member of the same clan or tribe often ‘help’ each other, even when it involves illegal corruption. Tribal influences have waned over the years, but are still strong particularly in politics. Kikuyus would always support President Kenyatta (a kikuyu) and Kalenjins (vice president Ruto). Meanwhile Luos support their tribesman Raila Odinga with Kamba supporting another opposition figure Kalonzo Musyoka. However one looks at it, tribalism seems to be running through veins of Kenyans and the change of constitution does not seem to alter that situation.


It should be noted that the introduction of the second chamber of parliament (upper house) in Kenya was meant to provide an opportunity for Kenyan parliament to scrutinize the government more robustly. However, bickering concerning which chamber is constitutionally more powerful than the other has left the parliament divided and ultimately less potent that it actually was before 2010. Similar issues have derailed the devolution process as senators, MPs and governors are in constant scramble for power rather than serving the public.


In the end one wonders whether the change of constitution in Kenya has had any significant impact in the country if at all. That brings a question of whether the constitution or political will is important for a country to move forward. This can be understood in the context of recent events in Tanzania. Having failed to emulate its neighboring Kenya in changing the constitution in 2015, the country stuck to its 1977 constitution. However, the coming into power of the new president, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli has changed the political, economic and social scenario in Tanzania. Indeed, since November, 2015 when Dr. Magufuli took over the presidency, corruption has been tackled head on, governance improved, revenue collections increase, waste in government spending arrested just to mention but a few successes. What we therefore see in the two countries is a willing president who used an old constitution to the maximum in Tanzania, and a very impressive constitution laid to waste in Kenya. Given the two scenarios, one would not be far from the truth to say that political will and not the change of constitution is what can transform African countries.