Kenya v2.0 or 1.3?

A week after the big party, several thoughts on where Kenya stands with the new constitution.

First, I do think the successful referendum and passage of the new constitution is consequential in itself. Kenyans got to make up their minds, go vote, and their votes counted. This process can work in Kenya.

In this sense, the Government of National Unity has carried out one of the core functions under the original post-election agreement from 2008 and compared to how things looked in December of last year when I started this blog, the GNU has made a better account of itself not so much for affirmative acts, but for letting the process established work.

These things said, the Constitution provides an outline of the “functionalities” needed for a “Second Republic”–writing working “code” to execute these in practice is the work at hand.

While the passage of the Constitution itself is a long-awaited breakthrough, I did chose to quote in my “historic day” post from the Standard article noting the highest expectations since the election of the NARC ticket in 2002 with full appreciation for the cautionary tale to be had from looking at how those expectations were dashed. Right now the new Constitution is a milestone; what else it will be is to be determined.

A new Republic with require people as well as systems. Right now, we have in Kenya the same people in political power. Their judgment is reflected in the how they managed to taint the celebration of the accomplishment of the country in passing the new Constitution. Apparently the thinking went like this: “We are having a picnic. What is a picnic without a skunk? Let’s invite Bashir!”

Updated: Some other African presidential election developments

In Sudan, BBC reports that former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi is entering the April race for President against Bashir.  Al-Mahdi promises action on Darfur.  This should be interesting.  BBC’s take is that this raises prospects for the legitimacy of the election (in which the SPLA chose not to offer its strongest challenge).  Maybe.  It might also raise the stakes for Bashir–is he willing to lose an election and leave office based on how the votes are actually cast?  While under ICC indictment?

Across the continent, perhaps the West’s and America’s very favorite African president has–wait for it–announced that she is running for a second 6 year term in next year’s election despite having pledged originally that she would only serve one term.

Good business for Johnson-Sirleaf’s American lobbyists and consultants anyway–hope it is good for Liberia.  Perhaps this is a positive development from a gender equality angle anyway:  maybe women are just as inclined to hang on to power, and just as disinclined to leave the presidency as men.

When Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was running for office, she boldly told this programme that once elected into office, she would only serve one six year term.

But a week in politics is a long time and 5 years is an eternity.

Yesterday, president Johnson-Sirleaf made a major U-turn when she announced that she will seek a second six-year term in next year’s elections.

And The Economist reports that “worries about Ethiopia’s election, due in May, are growing” while noting that “most Western governments seem keen to downplay Mr. Mele’s human-rights record, hoping his re-election will keep his country stable.”