Why Kenya must do away with a pure presidential system
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga during the blue economy conference

Why Kenya must do away with a pure presidential system

By Ogunyo Thiringinyi

When it was time for Hon Kiraitu Murungi to present recommendations to Building Bridges Task Force in Meru, he didn’t disappoint. His reform proposals — why a pure presidential system is untenable in Kenya was impressive, but he didn’t offer any best alternative in our circumstance.

I have always wrote that a pure presidential system breeds corruption, lacks inclusivity and remains a perennial source of friction every election time in Kenya. Here, the Head of State is also the head of government. The executive branch doesn’t derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature but from the presidency that it lacks proper checks and balances. It also breeds exclusionism, disharmony, tribalism that some groups/communities always feel excluded, unrepresented, or neglected.

We’re a tribal nation. Proper deployment of politics can be a catalyst for development that has been elusive since independence. Politics, therefore, can be the only instrument by which we put paid to all social diseases like corruption, tribalism, poverty, crime, ignorance, insecurity etcetera.

Kenya can be better with a mixed two-tier system to eliminate exclusionism and separate politics revolving around tribe. A bicameral legislature where the elected lower house is inferior to upper house is better than unicameral with one parliamentary chamber as is advocated by some who want Senate Parliament scrapped. The executive is mixed with the legislature in a structure where Upper House is superior to Lower one, checks and balances on the rogue legislature and executive is ensured. MPs / senators are appointed Cabinet Ministers that there is spice, glamour, and attraction of a political office.

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A presidential system doesn’t offer interaction of Ministers in parliament. It breeds cronyism to the presidency and conceals corruption. We long for days when an Mp/minister would visit the grassroots to be with the people and explain government policies “at their level” and in their language, including dancing, singing, cheering and inspiring the crowd. I remember the likes of Dr Ouko, Ndolo, Dalmas Otieno, Biwott, Kamotho, Michuki,..

A pure presidential system always makes it possible for erroneous elections and faked results. Its why elections in Kenya has always been a facade, a matter of life and death, that its ever fraught with pitfalls. Because public institutions charged with managing elections become subservient to a powerful presidency that they’re pathetically unable to execute democratic mandate..

Supreme Court while overturning Uhuru’s elections last year, cited irregularities, captured in the preamble of their ruling..that “the greatness of a nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution and adherence to rule of law”. An all-powerful presidency will always ignore laws to rule by might.


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