Kenya’s post-independence history can be loosely segmented into three phases – the immediate post-Independence phase, Second Liberation and development/economy phase.
Founding President Jomo Kenyatta came up with the clarion call harambee (let’s pull together) to rally Kenyans, who were brimming with hopes and aspirations for a bright future, around a common vision.
Although there were a lot that needed to be done at the same, he identified three key issues – poverty, illiteracy and disease. His administration therefore had its work cut out. There were livelihoods to be nurtured as well as schools and hospitals to be built to meet these ambitious goals.
With the baton of the country’s leadership having passed on to President Daniel arap Moi, there were a set of new challenges on top of those that had been identified at Independence.
Corruption and ethnicity had taken root, opening a new war front for Moi’s administration. About a decade after Moi ascended to power, there was also a growing disenchantment with the one-party rule. A section of the country felt that the system bred despotism and curtailed political as well economic progress.
This disillusionment ultimately erupted into agitation for reforms. This effectively set off the second phase of the country’s trajectory. This phase is what is popularly known as the Second Liberation of the country.
The clamour for reforms gained momentum in the late 1980s, culminating in the repeal of section 2A of the Constitution in 1990 to allow for multiparty politics.
With the new political dispensation in place, Kenyans were brimming with confidence that the set of challenges they faced would be largely addressed.
Despite a multiplicity of political parties vying for Kenyans’ votes, electoral politics grew to be a corrosive affair, descending into unspeakable mayhem in the 2007 general election. The ugly tale of lives lost, uprooting of hundreds of thousands from their homes and property destroyed is still fresh in our minds.
The anarchy witnessed after the 2007 polls reignited the clamour for more reforms, this time the spotlight being focused on overhauling the entire structure upon which the nation was founded.
There was a palpable sense of jubilation in the air that with the new Constitution, most of the problems that had compromised democracy and retarded development had been substantially dealt with. The powers of the presidency, which reformists had blamed for most of what had gone wrong, were considerably watered down.
The reformists even agreed that the new Constitution was what the doctor had ordered for the myriad maladies that the country had been wrestling with.
Therefore, from 2010 going forward, it was only prudent that the nation shift its focus from the phase of reforms to that of development. In almost two decades preceding the promulgation of the new Constitution, the country had spent disproportionate amount of resources and time in implementing a series of reforms.
President Mwai Kibaki’s administration had already set the tone with a renewed focus on the economy. Politics rightly took the back burner under the new constitution. As former US president Bill Clinton would say, “It was economy stupid”. Time was also needed to implement the numerous provisions of the law to give effect to the new constitution.
The phase of development gathered steam when Jubilee coalition took over power in 2013. This is why Uhuruto campaign was anchored on transformation of the living standards of the people. The economy was going to receive undivided attention. This message resonated well with Kenyans given Jubilee’s huge victory in 2013 and the August 8, 2017 polls.
No one would argue against the fact that what this country needs now is development and more development. Sadly, there is an attempt by the opposition to turn back the clock to the reformist phase.
Already, NASA is harking back to the late 1980s when the urgent need for political changes was understandable. Such a clamour is particularly untimely and out of place given that we have not even fully implemented the current constitution.
Martha Wangari is MP for Gilgil.
The views expressed in this article are her own and don’t reflect KBC’s opinion.