The Constitution of Kenya (2010) has taken full effect at the Executive and Legislative arms of the Government. The two have been delinked, with members of the Cabinet no longer being Members of Parliament.
April 9, 2013 will remain indelibly engrained in Kenya’s political memory. It is nestled in the annals of our history as the first inauguration of the President and Deputy President under the 2010 Constitution.
On the Tuesday, Kenya’s Fourth President, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, took the reins of power at a colourful ceremony at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Twelve visiting Heads of State and a multitude of ecstatic Kenyans thronged the stadium to mark the start of a new political dawn.
His running mate William Ruto was sworn-in as the first Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, a position created by the new Constitution, a major departure after 50 years of vice presidents.
It was the second time in 50 years that a retiring President handed over the baton to an elected successor. The first was in 2003 when second President Daniel arap Moi handed over to former President Mwai Kibaki.
President Moi had taken over after the death of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
MZEE JOMO KENYATTA
When founding President Jomo Kenyatta was sworn in as Prime Minister on December 12, 1963, it was the culmination of a long arduous journey he had started decades earlier as a student at the Church of Scotland Mission at Thogoto.
Here was a man with a huge burden on his shoulders. He took over a new nation after a bloody independence struggle.
Mzee Kenyatta had gone through years tribulations having been arrested in 1952 and jailed for “managing and being member” of Mau Mau. He remained in prison until 1959, after which he was detained in Lodwar.
He understood only too well that he was taking over an economy heavily linked to London and a society, only 50 years earlier, cruelly jolted out of traditional African tranquility.
There was intense competition between the Anglo-American push for a capitalistic system of commerce on the one hand and the socialist approach.
His task would be no easier since the British had in Kenya and throughout its colonies divided their subjects on ethnic lines, creating a perfect ground for setting up one group against the next.
At 75, Kenyatta’s age and health were subjects of debate. These factors would have an impact on his leadership style for the 15 years he was at the helm.
On the eve of independence on December 11, 1963, Mzee Kenyatta had set out his vision for Kenya.
He dedicated his tenure to the war against poverty, ignorance and disease. In his first year, Kenyatta realised he needed £56 million to fund health, education and a number of ministries, yet he had only £2.5 million tax revenue.
The deficit was to be funded from external sources and the management of the economy needed extreme care. He realised that the agriculture and industry, which were dominated by whites, was nervous about their future. A large number were planning to leave.
Colonial business regulations were put in place to suppress African enterprise and leave the field for white traders and businesses. Africans could not get loans from a bank.
Independence brought down the barriers and Kenyatta Africanised retail trading by ring-fencing registration. Only indigenous Africans could run a retail business.
By 1966, Kenya was in an economic crisis after the breakup of the dollar exchange system followed by a global monetary disruption.
In 1973, the oil crisis destroyed the economic gains from coffee boom because the price of oil shot up after major oil exporters in the Gulf proclaimed an oil embargo to hit back at the United States which had decided to support Israel during its war with Egypt.
These huge economic challenges faced Mzee Kenyatta as he lay the ground for a booming economy then at par with some current Asian tigers.
Away from the economy, Kenyatta was unhappy about the Lancaster Constitution provision for regional (majimbo) governments. The nationalists fervor and regionalism created a contradiction he wanted out of the way so he could create a unitary nation.
He would abandon the division of services espoused in the majimbo constitution and instruct ministers to implement their plans in the regions as well.
He kept abreast of the developments in the regions through the provincial administration, which became one of the departments in the Office of the President.
This was to be his style of leadership, keeping a tight grip on the executive and which would be institutionalised by a slew of constitutional amendments between 1963 and 1978 and were meant to reflect the new political, constitutional, economic and social aspirations of Kenya.
There were 12 constitutional amendments between 1964 and 1975.
In 1969, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Kenya Peoples Union (KPU) party – which he formed after resigning from the vice presidency in 1966 – was banned and its leaders detained.
The de facto state of affairs was effective in that Kanu was the only active political party. It was not until 1982 that one-partyism was entrenched in the Constitution, making Kenya a de jure one-party State.
The cumulative effect of the amendments was to concentrate power on the President and the presidency.
This system of government, with an all-powerful president defined Mzee Kenyatta’s presidency.
Mzee Kenyatta died in his sleep on August 22, 1978 at Mombasa State House.