The Bankruptcy of Peace, and of the Constitution, in Kenya’s 2017 Elections

The Bankruptcy of Peace, and of the Constitution, in Kenya’s 2017 Elections

The 2010 Constitution of Kenya is transformative, to say the least. It is, however, bankrupt on peace; so is the country. The word “peace” appears a paltry four times in the constitution: first in the Preamble, second in Article 37 on the right to “peaceable” demonstrations, third in Article 238 (1) on threats to national security, and finally in Article 240 (8) (a) (i) on regional or international peace operations.

While the framers of the constitution considered other critical ingredients to a stable, secure, and prosperous Kenya, including the (non-)issue of integrity and leadership, they, in their own wisdom, relegated the subject of peace—the critical fabric that holds any society, state, or civilization together. Even a look at the national values and principles of governance in Article 10 hardly implies the centrality of peace. At this point, in my opinion, it is fair to perhaps assume that peace was a non-issue to the framers of the constitution. Events in Kenya, however, point to the dearth, and thirst, for peace now and in the future. The violent elections of 1992, 1997, and 2007 are evidence enough that this country is always in a state of “unpeace.” The ethnic identity differences entrenched in the country are, as always, supposedly to be blamed for this “unpeace.” I reject this convenient truth.

It is election year 2017, and the old narrative is here again: the narrative of post-election peace. The peace entrepreneurs are out and about, doing business as usual, in the name of peace. You also have peace scholars like myself, who are already drafting abstracts for journal articles. Some peace institutes have already issued “Calls for Papers” on the pre-emptive conflict situation in Kenya, while the ubiquitous peace NGOs have ready-made templates for post-election violence reports about the country. The media stations have followed suit, with interviews and commentaries on peace or “unpeace” in the August 8th elections. Journalists, too, are giving lectures on mainstream and social media about peace. The religious folks are also feeding their flock with the fodder from pulpits, the airwaves, and at peace rallies. For the political class, peace and “unpeace” have become campaign items. Peace is, after every five years, dished out to citizens at political rallies, just like the not-for-free campaign merchandise.

This peace talk, albeit superficial, is good for sustaining some semblance of peace in the country, as is the National Policy on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management of 2012. It is, however, worth noting that there is hardly any law, including the constitution, that expressly legislates on the pursuit of peace in the country, not least the National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 establishing the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). The peace infrastructure in the country is therefore bankrupt and hollow. In my submission, it is time to amend the constitution and fix the missing chapter, the chapter on peace. By expressly defining measures for peace in the to-be “First Amendment” to the supreme law or by legislating a Peace Act, this country will better transition from its current state of “unpeace” to peace.

Jocelyn Perry
About the Author

Muema Wambua is a graduate student of International Relations at the United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya.

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