Kenya’s Constitutional Struggle: From Mboyo to Saba Saba to BBI | Kenya

Kenya celebrated its two anniversary last week.

Fifty-two years ago, this country experienced a terrible tragedy-the 38-year-old Minister of Economic Planning and Development Tom Mboya was assassinated. Even at that young age, Mboya was already a living legend in Kenya and elsewhere. In his 20s, he was one of Africa’s top anti-colonial leaders and helped establish and organize the union movement across the continent. In his 30s, he participated in the negotiation of Kenya’s independence and did a lot of work to determine the future development direction of the country. On July 5, 1969, he was murdered by the country he established and served.

In his heyday, the ambitious Mboya left a mixed legacy, and the country is still accepting it. His personal talent, charisma and speech skills are unparalleled in Kenyan political history. The opportunity he provided for a generation of Kenyans to study in the United States made the country the first black president and awarded Kenya the first Nobel Peace Award winner.

However, as Kenya’s first Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, he was also primarily responsible for the destruction of the independent constitution, and submitted the amendment to the Parliament, thus creating thousands of people who would eventually devour him not only. Fellow monsters.

The amendment concentrated power in the hands of the president, weakened and eventually abolished decentralized local government, and turned the judiciary and legislature into the executive branch. Less than three months before his murder, the parliament consolidated all the changes proposed by him and his successors and announced a new constitution in which the imperial president Jomo Kenyatta ruled unrestricted . It was this president who had lost his favor at the time, and he would give the green light to Mboya’s killing.

Even before independence, Mboya “made it clear that he had no time… [the governing party] Canu. He ordered the banning of newspapers because they did not highlight Kenyatta and threatened to restrict freedom of speech and press after December 12, 1963. He warned the opposition that if, as he said, it would face “strict legal” services, “without any useful purpose, it is a luxury that we will not tolerate.” We can’t afford it. ‘”

It is said that he is the driving force behind the one-party state, which will become the millstone on the necks of Kenyans. He adopted this idea from Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana and put it “in his briefcase.” It was brought to Kenya.

This brings us to our second anniversary.

Almost 21 years after Mboya was assassinated, on July 7, 1990, which was named Saba Saba (7/7), at least 39 people were killed, 69 people were injured, and more than 5,000 people were arrested. Heralded a 20-year resistance movement aimed at overthrowing the country he helped build. At that time, it was a public rally calling for the resumption of the multiparty politics of the Mboya era. The state’s violent response hardly eased the momentum of change.

The reaction that day triggered a wave of mass protests and civil disobedience, which eventually turned into a tsunami that swept down KANU 12 years later, and finally passed a new constitution in 2010, which canceled many of Mboya’s amendments .

These two anniversaries are particularly noteworthy this year, just a few days after the Kenyan government’s oral debate on an appeal against a high court ruling that blocked its attempt to amend the constitution. Drawing lessons from the misfortune of the independent constitution in the hands of Mboya and his followers, the judges essentially ruled that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga, who had become friends, could not In doing so, the 2010 document passed their much-touted “Bridge Building Initiative”.

The appellate court’s decision on whether to uphold the ruling will be made in approximately seven weeks. As history has shown, Kenya’s stakes cannot be higher, and lives may actually be up in the air. But in another sense, even if the battle is won, the government has already lost the war. Marilyn Kamuru, a Kenyan writer and public policy adviser, said the High Court’s ruling “has changed people’s perceptions”. “Even if the appeal is overturned, it will not be overturned at that moment.”

This moment is similar to the historic decision that the Supreme Court announced four years ago that Kenyatta won the presidential election. Despite the intimidation campaign and subsequent false elections and the resettlement of him, the people have seen that the constitution they fought for makes it possible and will not ignore it. The impact has spread outside Kenya. For example, Malawi’s Constitutional Court is unlikely to also cancel the re-election of President Peter Mutharika last year.

The Kenyan government doesn’t like to commemorate Mboya’s killing or Saba Saba. They are not public holidays, nor are they officially recognized. It was not until 42 years after his death that a statue was erected for Mboya a few meters from where he was shot.

However, it’s heartening that ordinary Kenyans still need time to remember, and there are very few Saba Saba Days, when the country did not use tear gas and brutal treatment of peaceful protesters as it did in the past 31 years. Before playing the role of oppressor.

At this time, when the country threatens to return to the dark days of unbridled dictatorship, it is important for Kenyans to constantly remind themselves that freedom is always the product of struggle, and a large part of it is the struggle to preserve memory.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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