Memory, Traditionalism and Constitutionalism: Overcoming the Problem of Nation Formation in Kenya.
Ngugi, Charles M.
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Abstract: Since the dawn of the second liberation in Kenya in the early 1990s, Kenyans have been trying to write a new constitution to replace the independence constitution which was not a product of popular negotiation. Owing to numerous factors, this process has, as of December 2006, stalled. However, this exercise has revealed the difficulties and pitfalls inherent in forging a nation out of disparate ethnic groups. In this chapter, I argue that the on-going attempt at constitution making in Kenya is beset by many problems, not least of which are memory and traditionalism, and the conflation of the individual with community in designing the new constitution. What Kenyan communities remember about their pre-contact, colonial and postcolonial relationships with authority bears considerable impact on the prospects of not just constitution-making but also nation formation. I argue that the only way forward in the construction of the nationhood is the elevation of the individual above communities in a context of constitutionalism and the undermining of ethnic identities and memories which at the moment dominate the political scene in Kenya.