The idea of the people’s sovereignty in our Constitution has been an abstract concept since its promulgation on August 27, 2010. But not any more, thanks to both a state and a political leadership that has led an assault on our sovereignty – so the idea is, now indeed, real and alive!
Domination, oppression and exploitation beget resistance. Crises breed opportunities for such a resistance. The COVID-19 pandemic has “raptured normalities” the world over. Kenya has not been an exception as the pandemic has breathed life into the clarion call for the implementation of the 2010 Constitution.
Where do we find the sovereignty of the Kenyan people in the 2010 Constitution?
Right from the beginning, the Preamble of our Constitution: We, the people of Kenya adopt, enact and give the Constitution to ourselves and our future generations. Article 1(1) provides that “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution.” Article 1(1) states “The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.” We are called upon as Kenyans under Article 3 to “respect, uphold and defend the Constitution.”
That responsibility and obligation allows Kenyans to make sure “any attempt to establish a government otherwise than in compliance with this Constitution,” which the Constitution decrees as “unlawful” is resisted in our national duty to respect, uphold and defend our Constitution.
It is fundamentally important to bear in mind that we Kenyans can exercise our sovereign power directly.
Participation of the people in all societal matters is a national value under Article 10 of the Constitution. Executive, Legislative, and Judicial authorities are derived from the people of Kenya. So, Wanjiku is also the sovereign President, Speaker, Chief Justice, Senator, MP and MCA, indeed, the sovereign in all public and state offices. The independent institutions, the security apparatuses, and the financial bodies derive their authority from Wanjiku.
The idea of the people’s sovereignty in our Constitution has been an abstract concept since its promulgation on August 27, 2010. But not any more, thanks to both a state and a political leadership that has led an assault on our sovereignty – so the idea is, now indeed, real and alive.
They are all called upon “to protect the sovereignty of the people” of Kenya. National resources are held in trust for Wanjiku. Our Bill of Rights is the most progressive in the world by giving us the promotion and protection of their whole gamut of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. Implementing these rights fulfills the promise of our democracy and ensures the equitable distribution of our national resources. The sovereign debt benefits Wanjiku and not the institutions and people to whom she has delegated power.
Our power to recall MPs and MCAs as well as our power to impeach the President reflect that Wanjiku can recall the power she has donated to all state institutions and officers. The state’s “machinery or forces of violence” are told in very clear terms that national security is protection of the sovereignty of the country, “its people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity, and other national interests” under Article 238 of the Constitution.
Devolution is about the equitable distribution of political power and resources. It is about grassroots democracy from the village when Kenyans get to control and share not only resources but also their political power.
General COVID-19 marches all over the world
Unfortunately for both the state and the ruling elite – General COVID-19 marched all over the world since January 2020 leaving in his wake death and destruction. Wanjiku started demanding her rights under the 2010 Constitution by asking the state and the elite the following questions: Where is my right to the highest attainable standard of health? Where is my accessible and adequate housing? What about my reasonable standards of sanitation? Where is my freedom from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality? Where is my clean and safe water in adequate quantities? My social security? My children’s education? Why are you denying me emergency medical treatment?
Devolution is about the equitable distribution of political power and resources. It is about grassroots democracy from the village when Kenyans get to control and share not only resources but also their political power
The responses to Wanjiku were inhuman: ulisikia wapi (who told you this?) When Wanjiku insisted on asking these questions the Karaus (security personnel) responded with demolitions of housing, sprayed poisonous tear gas and dangerous water canons to disperse Wanjiku’s children contrary to the dictates of Article 37 of the Constitution. Police officers are ordered other Article to protect the right of citizens to “peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.” In my long history of activism I have never seen citizens armed. Indeed, its the police who are armed, and arm goons and criminals to attack peaceful protesters. There were reported extrajudicial killings in the people’s informal settlements. The rich and powerful kept their billions in their foundations and banks (except for two) and shamelessly sold donated PPE’s, surgical masks and vitamins, and announced from the rooftops that they are now COVID-19 millionaires and billionaires.
As if this was not enough, Wanjiku was told to keep social distance, wash hands and wear surgical masks. Curfew was declared and hunger imposed in the bargain. Wanjiku’s cries for justice under the Constitution were met with state brutality and elite responses of Utado (what will you do if you cannot breathe?). No humanity, no caring, extreme callousness and untold greed on the part of the state and the elite. Both the state and ruling elite lost the legitimacy and morality to rule.
In the midst of all this, Wanjiku is told that the only game in town is called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Wanjiku responds Kweli ashibaye hamjui mwenye njaa/those who are never hungry never experience hunger. The response is yet again ulisikia wapi? BBI itafanyika upende usipende/BBI will happen whether you want it or not. Wanjiku can see that the government and the opposition have become an imperial presidency, combining support for imperialism and the engine of dictatorship that we rejected by promulgating the 2010 Constitution. BBI is the subversion of the Constitution and the political coup that is unlawful under Article 3 (2) of the Constitution. Wanjiku has decided to resist BBI and respect, uphold, and defend the Constitution.
The official opposition has ceased to be the government in waiting, signaling the beginning of the idea of an authentic people’s opposition. For Wanjiku, the “people’s president” urged by the leader of the opposition has been demystified as elite chicanery, a ploy to claw back the gains of the 2010 Constitution.
In the midst of all this, Wanjiku is told that the only game in town is called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Wanjiku responds Kweli ashibaye hamjui mwenye njaa/those who are never hungry never experience hunger. The response is yet again ulisikia wapi? BBI itafanyika upende usipende/BBI will happen whether you want it or not.
That is how the idea of the sovereignty of Kenya’s people ceased to be abstract. Resistance to the state and the ruling elite in the name of #Tekeleza/Linda Katiba/implement and defend the Constitution is now loud and clear.
Wanjiku’s sovereignty in various matters is being validated in courts through Public Interest Litigation. Various petitions have been filed in the High Court while civil society movements are organizing and mobilizing Wanjiku to stand up for the protection of the Constitution. In the constitutional works is discussion of the institution of private prosecution under Article 3 (2) of the Constitution against the proponents of BBI for seeking to “establish a government otherwise than in compliance with this Constitution.” Activities of the BBI are going to be constitutionally tested and criminal proceedings shall be brought by Wanjiku to stop BBI from overthrowing the Constitution by unlawful means, the crime of treason!
When General COVID-19 Retreats
While General COVID-19 occupies our Motherland, Wanjiku will not distinguish him from the state and the ruling elite. Wanjiku will have to fight both. The state and the ruling elite have not made any concessions as decreed by the Constitution. The uses by the state and the ruling elite of the machinery of violence under the conditions imposed by the occupation of COVID-19 have been ill advised and inhuman. This is not the time to put profits, corruption and theft before the interests of Wanjiku.
The state and the ruling elite are both endangering our democracy, our peace and security, our prosperity, and our future. BBI cannot be an answer to this national crisis. Police brutality is not an answer to the crisis.
If General COVID-19 is to be defeated, the state and ruling elite must be on the side of the people. There is no evidence that both want to be. The unfolding history of this country will validate my belief that those who are not with the people of Kenya are on the side of General COVID-19. They will consequently also retreat with General COVID-19. The state and the ruling elite will consequently lose their constitutional legitimacy to rule.
When that happens there must be an alternative political leadership that Kenyans are convinced will be different from the current one – a leadership that will use the institution of the state in the material interests of Kenyans. It has to be a leadership that will implement the critical pillars of the 2010 Constitution while auditing, through a national participatory consultation, from the grassroots, from the ground up, our Constitution. The audit will be about illuminating the weaknesses in the Constitution and thereby plugging those gaps so that the voice of our united people will lead in the decision making of our country’s future.
Edited by Natasha Elkington
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Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul
Only the Haitian people can decide their own future. The dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse and its imperialist enablers need to go – and make space for a people’s transition government.
Haiti is once again going through a profound crisis. Central to this is the struggle against the dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse. Since last year Mr. Moise, after decreeing the dismissal of Parliament, has been ruling through decrees, permanently violating Haiti’s constitution. He has refused to leave power after his mandate ended on February 7, 2021, claiming that it ends on February 7 of next year, without any legal basis.
This disregard of the constitution is taking place despite multiple statements by the country’s main judicial bodies, such as the CSPJ (Superior Council of Judicial Power) and the Association of Haitian Lawyers. Numerous religious groups and numerous institutions that are representative of society have also spoken. At this time, there is a strike by the judiciary, which leaves the country without any public body of political power.
At the same time, this institutional crisis is framed in the insecurity that affects practically all sectors of Haitian society. An insecurity expressed through savage repressions of popular mobilizations by the PNH (Haitian National Police), which at the service of the executive power. They have attacked journalists and committed various massacres in poor neighborhoods. Throughout the country, there have been assassinations and arbitrary arrests of opponents.
Most recently, a judge of the High Court was detained under the pretext of promoting an alleged plot against the security of the State and to assassinate the president leading to the illegal and arbitrary revocation of three judges of this Court. This last period has also seen the creation of hundreds of armed groups that spread terror over the entire country and that respond to power, transforming kidnapping into a fairly prosperous industry for these criminals.
The 13 years of military occupation by United Nations troops through MINUSTAH and the operations of prolongation of guardianship through MINUJUSTH and BINUH have aggravated the Haitian crisis. They supported retrograde and undemocratic sectors who, along with gangsters, committed serious crimes against the Haitian people and their fundamental rights.
For this, the people of Haiti deserve a process of justice and reparations. They have paid dearly for the intervention of MINUSTAH: 30 THOUSAND DEAD from cholera transmitted by the soldiers, thousands of women raped, who now raise orphaned children. Nothing has changed in 13 years, more social inequality, poverty, more difficulties for the people. The absence of democracy stays the same.
The poor’s living conditions have worsened dramatically as a result of more than 30 years of neoliberal policies imposed by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), a severe exchange rate crisis, the freezing of the minimum wage, and inflation above 20% during the last three years.
It should be emphasized that, despite this dramatic situation, the Haitian people remain firm and are constantly mobilizing to prevent the consolidation of a dictatorship by demanding the immediate leave of office by former President Jovenel Moïse.
Taking into account the importance of this struggle and that this dictatorial regime still has the support of imperialist governments such as the United States of America, Canada, France, and international organizations such as the UN, the OAS, and the EU, the IPA calls its members to contribute their full and active solidarity to the struggle of the Haitian people, and to sign this Petition that demands the end of the dictatorship as well as respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the Haitian people, the establishment of a transition government led by Haitians to launch a process of authentic national reconstruction.
In addition to expressing our solidarity with the Haitian people’s resistance, we call for our organisations to demonstrate in front of the embassies of the imperialist countries and before the United Nations. Only the Haitian people can decide their future. Down with Moise and yes to a people’s transition government, until a constituent is democratically elected.
Deconstructing the Whiteness of Christ
While many African Christians can only imagine a white Jesus, others have actively promoted a vision of a brown or black Jesus, both in art and in ideology.
When images of a white preacher and actor going around Kenya playing Jesus turned up on social media in July 2019, people were rightly stunned by the white supremacist undertone of the images. They suggested that Africans were prone to seeing Jesus as white, promoting the white saviour narrative in the process. While it is true that the idea of a white Jesus has been prevalent in African Christianity even without a white actor, and many African Christians and churches still entertain images of Jesus as white because of the missionary legacy, many others have actively promoted a vision of Jesus as brown or black both in art an in ideology.
Images of a brown or black Jesus is as old as Christianity in Africa, especially finding a prominent place in Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has been in existence for over sixteen hundred years. Eyob Derillo, a librarian at the British Library, recently brought up a steady diet of these images on Twitter. The image of Jesus as black has also been popularised through the artistic project known as Vie de Jesus Mafa (Life of Jesus Mafa) that was conducted in Cameroon.
The most radical expression of Jesus as a black person was however put forth by a young Kongolese woman called Kimpa Vita, who lived in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Through the missionary work of the Portuguese, Kimpa Vita, who was a nganga or medicine woman, became a Christian. She taught that Jesus and his apostles were black and were in fact born in São Salvador, which was the capital of the Kongo at the time. Not only was Jesus transposed from Palestine to São Salvador, Jerusalem, which is a holy site for Christians, was also transposed to São Salvador, so that São Salvador became a holy site. Kimpa Vita was accused of preaching heresy by Portuguese missionaries and burnt at the stake in 1706.
It was not until the 20th century that another movement similar to Vita’s emerged in the Kongo. This younger movement was led by Simon Kimbangu, a preacher who went about healing and raising the dead, portraying himself as an emissary of Jesus. His followers sometimes see him as the Holy Spirit who was to come after Jesus, as prophesied in John 14:16. Just as Kimpa Vita saw São Salvador as the new Jerusalem, Kimbangu’s village of Nkamba became, and still is known as, the new Jerusalem. His followers still flock there for pilgrimage. Kimbangu was accused of threatening Belgian colonial rule and thrown in jail, where he died. Some have complained that Kimbangu seems to have eclipsed Jesus in the imagination of his followers for he is said to have been resurrected from the dead, like Jesus.
Kimbangu’s status among his followers is however similar to that of some of the leaders of what has been described as African Independent Churches or African Initiated Churches (AICs). These churches include the Zionist churches of Southern Africa, among which is the amaNazaretha of Isaiah Shembe. Shembe’s followers see him as a divine figure, similar to Jesus, and rather than going to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, his followers go to the holy city of Ekuphakameni in South Africa. The Cameroonian theologian, Fabien Eboussi Boulaga, in his Christianity Without Fetish, see leaders like Kimbangu and Shembe as doing for their people in our own time what Jesus did for his people in their own time—providing means of healing and deliverance in contexts of grinding oppression. Thus, rather than replacing Jesus, as they are often accused of doing, they are making Jesus relevant to their people. For many Christians in Africa, therefore, Jesus is already brown or black. Other Christians still need to catch up with this development if we are to avoid painful spectacles like the one that took place Kenya.
In Magufuli’s Shadow: The Stark Choices Facing Tanzania’s New President
One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.
The sudden death of Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has thrown the East African nation into a period of political uncertainty.
Vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sworn in as his successor, making her Tanzania’s first woman president.
The transition is all the more challenging given the major rupture – both political and economic – caused by Magufuli’s presidency. Magufuli, who won a second term in October 2020, dramatically centralised power and pursued an interventionist economic policy agenda. He courted controversy on a number of fronts, most recently, by claiming that Tanzania – contrary to mounting evidence – was Covid-free.
Hassan has called for unity and counselled that now is not the time to look at what has passed but rather to look at what is to come.
Despite the 61-year-old leader’s forward-looking stance, questions remain about how Magufuli’s legacy will shape her time in office.
The authoritarian turn
Magufuli oversaw the marginalisation of opposition parties and a decline in civil liberties. His first term was defined by heightened intimidation and violence against opposition leaders, including disappearances and physical attacks.
Thanks to five years of repression, the October 2020 general elections saw the opposition all but wiped out of elected office. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi now controls all local government councils. It also holds 97% of directly elected legislative seats, up from 73% in 2015.
But Magufuli’s authoritarian tendencies were not unprecedented in Tanzania. For instance, the rule of his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete was also marred by human rights abuses as well civil society and media repression. Kikwete also cancelled Zanzibar’s 2015 election due to a likely opposition victory.
It remains to be seen whether Hassan will adopt a more liberal approach, loosening restrictions on opposition parties, the media and civil society. Even if she does, the damage will take time to repair. Opposition parties, for instance, may well struggle to regain their strength. Among other setbacks, they have lost almost all local elected representatives – a core element of their organisational infrastructure built up painstakingly over decades.
Centralising power in the party
Another key pillar to Magufuli’s legacy is the centralisation of power within the Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
In the early years under founding president Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s ruling party was dominated by the president and a hierarchy of appointed state and party officials. But, following economic liberalisation in the 1980s and Nyerere’s retirement from politics, the party became steeped in factional rivalries. These were spurred by new political alliances and an emerging private sector business elite.
This factionalism reached its height under Kikwete amid accusations of widespread corruption. Magufuli’s nomination as party presidential candidate only occurred because the rivalry among these factions left him as the unexpected compromise candidate.
Once in office, though, Magufuli quickly signalled he would be nobody’s puppet. He used his position as ruling party chairman to create a “new” Chama Cha Mapinduzi. This involved breaking with party heavyweights, including Kikwete, suppressing factional organising, and consolidating his own support base.
Magufuli’s new base was a cohort of freshly appointed party officials as well as civil servants and cabinet ministers. His loyalists likened these changes to a revival of Nyerere’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi. But, in our view, the comparison is misleading.
Like Magufuli before her, Hassan will be taking office – and party leadership – without her own political base. She will also have to contend with revived factional manoeuvring as sidelined groups try to regain an upper hand.
Hassan could align with a loyal Magufuli faction, which includes influential figures within the party. But, early indications suggest she intends to follow the advice of “party elders”, notably Kikwete. The former president reportedly attended the party’s most recent central committee meeting on Hassan’s invitation.
Aligning herself with Kikwete will likely lead to the reemergence of the internal factional rivalries that characterised the former president’s tenure.
Implications for economic policy
If president Hassan does continue to take a political steer from Kikwete, one likely outcome is that there will be a change in economic policy. In particular, a return to growth that’s led by a more business-friendly approach to the private sector.
Calls are already being made for such a course of action..
A careful reassessment of the Magufuli era is needed to guide future policymaking.
Magufuli used his control over the ruling party to pursue an ambitious policy agenda. This was also linked to his political project of centralising power.
Although this trend actually began under Kikwete, Magufuli accelelrated a move towards more state-led investment. Under his leadership, both state-owned and, increasingly, military-owned enterprises were offered strategic contracts.
Many state enterprises remained cash-starved, relied on government financial support, and registered losses.
Alongside state investment, the president also sought to discipline private sector actors. Some observers suggest that this led to more productive investment, notably by domestic investors. But others point to renewed crony capitalist ties.
Magufuli’s most high profile corporate battle was against Canadian-owned Barrick Gold and its former subsidiary, Acacia Mining. From the two, he demanded USD$190 billion in tax arrears and a renegotiation of operating terms.
Many saw this resource-nationalist approach as an inspiration and a model for African countries seeking to take greater control of their mineral wealth. But in the end – partly due to externally imposed legal and economic constraints – Magufuli walked back on some of his demands. Instead he opted for cooperation rather than confrontation.
He negotiated a joint venture in which Barrick took a majority stake of 84% and Tanzania the remaining 16%. Key elements of the nationalistic mining legislation passed in 2017 were also reversed.
On the plus side gold overtook tourism as Tanzania’s biggest foreign-exchange earner. In addition, some small-scale miners saw their livelihoods improve. Results were more mixed elsewhere, especially for Tanzanite miners in the country’s north.
Ultimately, Magufuli leaves behind a mixed economic legacy. It combines misdirected authoritarian decision-making with positive efforts to pursue an active industrial policy. Reining in unproductive domestic investors and renegotiating adverse contracts with foreign investors were part of this agenda.
There is a risk, given this complex mix, that Tanzania’s policymakers may learn the wrong lessons from his presidency, leading back to the flawed model existing before.
The pandemic and beyond
One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.
Whatever she does, the health emergency and associated economic crisis will likely define her presidency. It could indeed define the economic trajectory of the African region in years to come.
Both Kikwete and Magufuli ruled through an economic boom period. Commodity prices were high and access to international finance was fairly easy. This gave them latitude to choose between various development approaches.
If Tanzania reverts to the status quo of the Kikwete years, the risk is a reemergence of rent-seeking but without the same highly favourable economic growth conditions. Indeed, as external conditions worsen, Hassan may find her options far more limited.
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