Can Zambia emulate Kenya?

By Trevor Sumumba

The Kenyan Parliament has just passed a Draft Constitution that is one of the progressive in Africa. This has come after much political debate and civil strife. The Kenyan people should rightly be very proud of reaching this point in their drive for change. The draft constitution passed by Parliament on Thursday will change the face of Kenya by introducing the most far-reaching institutional reforms the nation has seen since independence. If a majority of voters say ‘Yes’ at the referendum, Kenyans will have a Government in which the powers of the President will be severely limited, women’s rights are guaranteed and systems of land use and management radically changed to ensure equity.

The Constitution will overhaul the Judiciary, restructure the police force and write into law the socio-economic rights of all individuals as part of a Bill of Rights. In the new Kenyan Constitution, MPs will pay taxes, the number of ministers will be reduced by half and voters will be able to recall MPs who fail to discharge their duties properly. This is great news for Africa as a whole as no longer can Governments claim lack of examples of countries that have successfully changed their constitutions. Can Zambia do the same? Do we have political and national leaders in this country of the calibre of Raila Odinga, Kibaki himself, Amos Wako, Kalonzo Musyoka and all the other opposition and ruling party Members of Parliament who debated and voted based on principle and not on partisan cadre basis.

 Under the new constitutional order, the President will find his powers to exercise political patronage severely diminished. The Cabinet will be composed of a minimum of 14 ministers (to be named Cabinet Secretaries) and a maximum of 24. This will translate into savings for taxpayers, who will no longer have to pay the salaries and perks of a government such as the current grand coalition, which at formation included 40 ministers and 52 assistant ministers. (Source: Daily Nation Newspaper, Kenya)

 The position of assistant ministers will be history under the new constitutional order as will that of prime minister. Does our current crop of parliamentarians and Executive have the courage to do a similar thing? One wonders. How long will this NCC continue to deliberate and gobble billions of tax payers money? The Mungomba Draft Constitution covered a lot of ground already but we have had this NCC sit for years debating non-issues rather than ensuring that fundamental issues are dealt with like reducing the powers of the Presidency.

Kenya has really shown it is the ‘Pride of Africa’ and should be commended for this achievement. More importantly, civil society, the media and the religious bodies in Kenya played a critical positive role in this whole process and did not wage war against the process. They ensured that ordinary citizens’ views were incorporated in this new law. Now once the constitution is in place, the politicians can go back to competing on the basis of ideas and policy issues rather than on regional tribal politics which Zambia seems to be moving towards. It is hoped the success of Kenya can shame the Zambian politicians into action.

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