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Kenya Referendum farce

The 21 November referendum conducted by the Electoral Commission of Kenya to vote for or against the proposed new constitution was just a waste of money.

The clamour for a new constitution commenced in earnest with the advent of multi-party politics in the early 90s. Since then it has reached crescendo. Lives have been lost, limbs broken and some of those who have been at the top relegated to the lower levels of society.

During the regime of former president Daniel Arap Moi, short-term political reforms were introduced to keep at bay those clamouring for a new constitution. Mr. Moi succeeded in that he was able to rule for long but, at his departure, left the issue of the constitution unresolved.

With the coming to power of President Mwai Kibaki and his national Rainbow Coalition (NARC), constitution reform was one of the promises given to Kenyans in the 2002 general election campaign. In 2003 a constitutional assembly was instituted at the Bomas of Kenya venue which deliberated on the views collected from Kenyans about the constitution by the Kenya Review Commission in early 2002. The assembly sat for one year.

Its final submissions in early 2004 formed part of what has been argued about. The so-called Bomas draft was viewed as flawed as well as having good contents for the country. Or so those who took part in the deliberations said.

Since the draft which came out of Bomas wasnt agreeable to all, Kenyan MPs met to discuss the contentious issues (on power sharing, devolution and so-called religious courts). It was from their deliberations that a new draft emerged (the so-called Wako draft). The government gave deadlines for the passage of the draft, the final of which was the referendum of 21 November.

Kenyans overwhelmingly rejected the draft, by voting 60 percent against the passage while those for the passage only managed to garner 40 percent of the vote. Its back to the drawing board.

A new constitution or not isnt the panacea for what ails Kenya. The country has only two tribes: the rich and the pathetically poor (though there are 42 ethnic tribes). The rich own factories and employ the labour of the poor, who they exploit to the last sweat. The poor are in the majority but their thinking, lives and even their way of going are controlled by the other tribe.

The new constitution even if its coated with sweet words will never solve the imbalance in society. It will never make the poor rich. The rich tribe want to use the constitution to perpetuate their hold on the lives of the poor tribe. They have no intention of making any tangible changes in the lives of the other tribe.

And thats why I never support or participate in any activity designed to make a new constitution. Ill only participate in a meaningful activity which is intended to bring a system which has no frontiers, a society in which production is for use not profit, where there are no leaders and where money isnt worshipped.

Only when such a society is established can we say that weve arrived. And arrive we will.

PATRICK NDEGE, Nairobi.