On November 17, Kenya set out on a path that may go a long way to determine its future. This marked the start of a 30-day public interaction with the Harmonised Draft Constitution. I marked the beginning of the only chance that the ordinary Kenyan will have to interact with the document and make suggestions on how it can be improved.
This morning, there was this conversation that made me think whether the public is ready to be engaged on the making of the country’s supreme law. One guy brought up a notion that the country has a large population that is illiterate but also added that there are those who can read but are too lazy to do it.
And since there is nothing I can really do to increase the literacy level in the 30 days, I want to focus on the latter part of my friend’s concern.
During the 2005 quest for a new constitution, Kenyans (I included) left it to the politicians to read the draft for them and interpret it for them. The country was then divided into an orange and a banana and that culminated in the death of more than 1,000 Kenyans in 2008 due to the highly polarised atmosphere.
Counting on history to have taught us something, my hope is that Wanjiku will this time read the constitution before listening to the arguments by the politicians, civil society groups and religious leaders. We have a duty to ensure that we get it right before all the confusion starts.
Already there are those who are arguing against some aspects of the constitution without having even had a look at the document. Some shout loudest with arguments based on hearsay and without any basis in fact.
For instance one newspaper had to shameless give some politicians a platform to trash the proposals on the executive just hours after the document was unveiled. Even if they had an advance copy, it was prudent to let us all read it first and then open up the debate.
Having read the document, I believe it is one of the most advanced step that the country has made in the quest for a new constitution. All the legal jargon may be somehow confusing but it makes more sense than when you get explanations from someone – some who may have heard from someone else.
And that’s my call to Wanjiku… Read it this time!