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Why is Constitution and Constitutionalism in Africa Such a Holy Grail?

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Today August the 27th 2020, Kenyans celebrate 10 years since the promulgation of the constitution, joining a growing list of African Countries that have endeavoured to implement democratic and liberal constitutional reforms over the last two decades. The constitution which is hailed as the most progressive document not only in Africa, but the entire world, was a refreshing respite to many Kenyans and a new window of collective optimism to peek through a gilded promising future of justice, equality and the rule of law. Breaking away from the harrowing memories and barnacles of long drawn history of a stifling single-party system, rampant corruption and repressive regime the country had been subjected to under the leadership of the second President of Kenya the late Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi.

But as most Kenyans awoke to a numbingly cold morning today, so did many of their hearts as well, welcome the constitutional historical moment with a somewhat frosty reception and jaded mixed feelings as far as the decade is concerned. Harking back to the last ten years, undeniably much has been accomplished through the constitution, especially since the adoption of devolved system of government which is still shaking into place in most part of the Country. Proximate leadership and development, informed decisions through public participation citizenry. Enhancement of self-governance. Safeguarding interests and rights of the marginalized and minorities. Equitable distribution of resources and so on and so forth. These are all commendable and salutary efforts from the government I must say.

But, dreams, ambitions and aspirations of majority of Kenyans, that had been envisioned by the framers and drafters of the constitution, are unfortunately yet to be realized because of the galling lack of political will to implement the constitution. The most consternating thing, is that even the chief framer and architect of Kenya’s constitution , a constitutional lawyer and touted as the “father of the current constitution” had this to say as his opening remarks in one of Kenya’s local daily:

“’We should not rejoice and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Constitution with great enthusiasm. We have no reason to believe it will now generate better results than in the last 10 years, given the hands into which it has fallen”.

– Prof Yash Pal Ghai .

Quite a chilling statement from one of Africa’s progressive thinker, I muse.

President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke quite movingly and effusively in regard to the 10th anniversary of the constitution, reiterating and reminding Kenyans that 10 years later, the moment to improve the constitution is now. He further implored Kenyans not to succumb to the paralysis of the constitutional rigidity, but must treat it as a living document that must constantly adjust to the emerging realities. I totally agree with him on that
note that the constitution should be nimble, agile and a malleable document that should conform to the ever-changing realities of a country.

The abiding question remains, what happens to a document that has not been fully implemented over the years for lack of political good will? Do you have the lordly right whatsoever to call it rigid? How would you characterize it as rigid if it has not fully known the lay of the land through effective implementation? Why has there been a slow uptake and glacial slowness in implementing it over the decade with a fully constituted constitution implementation parliamentary committee? Is this the providential time to change the document when the general election is around the corner ? Why are you realizing at this moment that the presidential system and its winner takes all mantra does not snugly fit the country’s governance structure?

It’s quite interesting to note, nearly 30 countries in Africa have attempted to amend the constitution especially the removal of term limits since 1998 and this amazingly happened when the countries were girding for elections. Lately we have duly observed this trend creeping back to the African continent. Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi effortlessly come to mind as countries from East Africa which recently amended their constitution to do away with presidential term limits. Egypt has extended it presidential term limit to six years through a referendum and President Sisi is eligible for reelection in 2024, so ideally, he has enough room to swing a cat until 2030.
I had the good fortune recently of hosting Dr Miria Matembe a former member of the 7th parliament in Uganda and the author of the book titled The Struggle For Freedom & Democracy Betrayed: Memoirs Of Miria Matembe As An Insider In Museveni’s Government – quite an interesting read I must say – in a virtual debate on Presidential term limit and consolidating democracy in Africa . She made quite an interesting comment that should act as a pause giver for us.

“African Presidents love the constitution but they don’t love constitutionalism.”

Debarl Inea is a communication consultant at Sapphire Communications Ltd.

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Militants Ambush, Kill 25 Mozambican Soldiers

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Villages in Mozambique's northern region grapple with faceless jihadists

No fewer than 25 members of the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces (FADM), including a colonel and a major, died in an ambush by Islamist militants in Matambalale village in the district of Muidumbe, local media reports have said.

According to reports, 15 others were injured in the ambush.

A group of military personnel were on manoeuvres in that region when the incident happened on Sunday, according to local media.

The victims were part of a group sent to that district to reinforce security after last week’s attacks where homes were set ablaze and residents killed.

The army has not been available to confirm or deny the reports.

The three-year insurgency has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced about 500,000 others in Cabo Delgado, according to official statistics.

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Lightning Kills Four In Mozambique

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No fewer than four people have been killed by lightning strikes in Mozambique’s western province of Tete, the Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) announced on Wednesday.

News Central reports that Tete shares a border with neighbouring Malawi.

According to the institute, the victims include an elderly woman and a three-year-old child. One other victim was seriously injured and a residence set ablaze.

The incident follows a rainstorm accompanied by strong winds that left a trail of destruction in southern Mozambique.

Tete’s National Disaster Management Institute delegate, Alex Angelo, said the torrential rain also caused damage in Maputo province on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning.

He added that thunderstorms, wind and heavy rain brought down trees and power poles and damaged public infrastructure in the districts of Matola, Boane and Marracuene.

The storm also destroyed homes, uprooted trees and electricity poles and blew away the roofs of some schools and a local prosecutor’s office.

The destruction occurred mainly in four districts within the province.

The meteorological authorities predict the bad weather may continue for four more days.

The situation is likely to cause flooding in the cities of Beira and Dondo, which were devastated by cyclone Idai last year, and cause erosion in Chimoio.

Meteorologist Acacio Tembe says the torrential rains are beginning a week earlier than expected and they will continue for long.

He added that the rains may cause the flooding of the Buzi and Pungue rivers.

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Tigray: Ethiopia, U.N Reach Agreement On Provision Of Aids

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The Ethiopian government and the United Nations (U.N) have reached an agreement on the provision of access to humanitarian aids.

This was revealed by U.N officials on Wednesday, as they claim that the Ethiopian government has agreed to the provision of aids in Mekelle, the Tigrayan capital.

Ethiopia and Tigray, a powerful region in the north of the country, have been at loggerheads since the 4th of November.

The Ethiopian government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of destroying public properties and wreaking a havoc on the state.

This led to battles between the giant of the Horn of Africa and the rebellious Tigrayan forces.

The UN, through its refugee agency, warned about the lean supply of food to the more than 100,000 refugees in Ethiopia. At least 46,000 Ethiopians have also taken refuge in neighbouring Sudan, where they are short on food supply, according to the U.N.

Read also: UN Seeks $147m Support For Ethiopians In Sudan

Also affected in the food crunch are refugees in Eritrea, Ethiopia’s closest neighbours.

African envoys had called for a truce amid the Ethiopian government’s rejection of mediation from the international community.

Mister Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia said on Monday that Mekelle has been captured, as he revealed that no civilian was hit in the process.

His claims were however rejected by the leader of the TPLF, Debretsion Gebremichael who claimed that the Ethiopian government hit civilians in its onslaught on Mekelle.

The TPLF has refused to back down from its conflict with Ethiopia, denying that the battle is not over, contrary to the claims of Mister Ahmed.

Ethiopia is gearing up for its election in 2021, with political matters forming a part of the reasons for the ongoing conflict.

Mister Ahmed postponed the Ethiopian elections in August, citing COVID-19 as the reason for the decision. The TPLF has accused the Prime Minister of illegally leading government by buying himself more time through postponement of the election.

The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for 27 years before the emergence of Mister Ahmed in 2018.

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