African Woman & Child Feature Service

                              Feminisation of the Media and Governance

                              In Search of the Missing Voice


A PM for Kenya: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The debate on whether Kenya should have a prime minister has polarised the country politically and ethnically, reversing the nationalistic feeling many had eight months ago.

Politicians have suddenly caught fever over the issue and have gone ballistic with salvos being thrown left and right over the issue.

The clamour for the post has been viewed by many as an assault on the powers that are currently enjoyed by President Mwai Kibaki. Those opposed to the idea have gone further to claim that those calling for the creation of the post were calculating and measuring their steps to take over the presidents' job.

Politicians currently canvassing for the position have been labelled as people who are keen to destabilise the government. They have been called rebels from within and even equated to God's rebellious angel Lucifer, who broke away from God's control.

But this is an idea whose time has come and cannot be wished away any longer. It should find its way into the home-made constitution that the country is in the final process of writing. It is the only way that the country can hold its leaders accountable.

The argument that the President was elected on a popular mandate or has the mandate of the people at any one time does not allow him to have powers to continue issuing decrees to the same people.

Currently the President has the powers to issue unquestionable decrees to the same people who elected him.

The creation of the PM post has posed real and imagined threats to the status quo. Historically the idea of a premier has been a subject of a debate lasting four decades.

After 1964, the post of prime minister was expunged from the constitution and Jomo Kenyatta who was the President then consolidated the powers in the presidency by forcing an amendment of the relevant laws through Parliament.

The first attempt to recreate the post came in 1968 when the then Nyeri MP, Mr Kiboi Theuri, moved a motion in Parliament for the creation of the post within the constitution.

Loaded with suggestions that included the reduction of the president's powers, which would reduce him to a nominal head of government, Theuri further suggested that the prime minister be answerable to Parliament and be the head of the Cabinet.

Theuri's suggestions are still alive and at play in the current debate, showing that nothing has really changed in the 40 years save for the democratic space that has considerably been enlarged with the advent of multi-party politics.

Theuri's motion was defeated overwhelmingly. The response then from the people close to President Kenyatta was that Theuri was casting doubts over the President's honesty and integrity.

He was accused of challenging the status quo. Charles Njonjo, the then Attorney-General, dismissed the motion as meaningless and 'pitiful' and even wondered who Theuri had in mind as the prime minister.

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