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How Kenya’s ‘Second Republic’ failed to materialise | Kenya



Today, Kenya marks the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of its current constitution and what some at the time termed “the birth of the Second Republic” – a phrase one almost never hears today. And understandably so. For in the last decade, the constitution has been more honoured in breach than observance. Just a few days ago, a demonstration by a handful of citizens against the theft of funds meant for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was violently dispersed by the police despite the right to stage public protests being expressly protected in the constitution.

The second republic, it turns out, looks very much like what it was supposed to replace.

Part of the problem with the constitution is a feature of its design. It created a whole new, devolved level of government – the county – but still left most of the resources in the hands of the central government. Similarly, while it did bring decision-making closer to the people, the mechanisms and agencies for holding public officials to account are still based in the capital, Nairobi. As a result, the accountability that devolution was meant to ensure has turned out to be illusory.

Another, more egregious example of bad design is that the constitution gave Kenyans the right to recall their parliamentary representatives but then said those very representatives would get to decide when and how we would exercise that particular right. As you can imagine, that did not work out well for Kenyans.

However, by far, the main reason why the constitution has not wrought quite the transformation its authors anticipated is that it remains largely unimplemented. The political class which it was meant to contain have proven to be more than a match for it. From the very start, their support for genuine constitutional change had been lukewarm. While there was overwhelming support for change among the population, political elites saw the constitution primarily as an avenue for contesting power – those who had it resisted change and those who did not pushed for it. Thus the whole effort was constantly derailed by the changing political fortunes of the main actors whose views on the main issues were dependent on where they stood at any particular moment.

In December 2002, for example, Mwai Kibaki, a former regime loyalist and vice president who had spent a decade in opposition after falling out with his boss, the dictatorial Daniel arap Moi, was elected president. Kenyans genuinely believed that he would live up to his promise to deliver a new constitution within 100 days. Instead, once in power, and despite heading an administration that contained many of the leading lights of the push to enact a new constitution, he seemed to come to the conclusion that he liked things as they were. He rejected a constitutional draft which emerged from a constitutional conference in March 2004 after months of negotiation and struggle, his inner circle orchestrated an alternative draft which was rejected by Kenyans in a referendum a year later.

His successor, current President Uhuru Kenyatta, was at the time the leader of the opposition and declared after the referendum that Kenyans did not want an imperial presidency. Yet after he took power in 2013, and was tasked with the implementation of the 2010 constitution, he too preferred to keep things as they were.

In the past decade, his administration has demonstrated much contempt for the constitution. He has attempted to curtail the rights it guarantees under the guise of fighting terrorism and COVID-19; threatened judges when they ruled against him; commended the police for actions that led to the deaths of dozens of Kenyans; and undermined the devolution of powers to the counties. Just this week, the police attempted to sway the outcome of a vote in the Senate in favour of the government by arresting three senators.

Conspiring with Kenyatta to defeat the constitution has been a retinue of politicians, public officials, judges and bureaucrats. Among these is the Chief Justice, David Maraga, who has refused to ask the President to dissolve Parliament, a request the President would be constitutionally obliged to honour, over its failure to comply with a requirement not to have more than two-thirds of its membership drawn from the same gender.

In fact, all three branches of government, including the judiciary itself and the Supreme Court, are technically unconstitutional having failed to adhere to the requirement. And despite famously annulling the 2017 presidential poll, the judiciary has nonetheless failed to consistently uphold constitutional standards for elections, with Supreme Court justices infamously failing to deliver a crucial ruling less than two months after the annulment; has upheld discriminatory colonial laws; and allowed the reintroduction of laws against criminal libel that it had previously ruled unconstitutional. Similarly, though guaranteed operational independence by the Constitution, the police have acted as little more than partisan enforcers

And having made peace with his erstwhile rival, Raila Odinga, Kenyatta has abandoned all pretence of implementing the constitution and is instead now looking to change it. Many suspect that it may be a ploy to hang on to power when his constitutional two-term limit expires in two years’ time.

In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the late US philosopher Robert Pirsig wrote: “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves”.

Clearly, this has been the case with the Kenyan state. While the constitution sought to restart the project of decolonisation aborted at independence, the job of implementing it has unfortunately been left to an elite with the same colonial patterns of thought that produced the first republic. It is a mistake Kenyans cannot afford to repeat.

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

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‘Almost 180-degree turnaround’: More Black Americans open to jabs | Coronavirus pandemic News




More Black people in the United States say they are open to receiving coronavirus vaccines, a new survey shows, an encouraging sign that one community leader described as “almost a 180-degree turnaround” from earlier in the pandemic.

According to the late March poll by the Associated Press news agency and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 24 percent of Black people said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

That is down from 41 percent in January, and is similar to the proportion of white people (26 percent) and Hispanic Americans (22 percent) who also say they do not plan to get jabs.

The findings come as US President Joe Biden’s administration works to speed up inoculations to try to outpace a recent rise in infections, after he promised that all adults would be eligible for a jab by April 19.

Public health experts had raised concerns about the need to ensure that Black and other communities of colour in the US, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, had equitable access to vaccines.

Local leaders said vaccine hesitancy was fuelled in part by decades of institutional discrimination in healthcare and other public services.

Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told AP that attitudes among Black people have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have worked to combat misinformation.

Benjamin said Black physicians, faith leaders and other organisers have helped get targeted messaging to the community “in a way that wasn’t preachy”.

“They didn’t tell people, ‘You need to get vaccinated because it’s your duty.’ They basically said, ‘Listen, you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family,’” he said.

Mattie Pringle, a 57-year-old Black woman from South Carolina who previously had doubts about taking the vaccine, said she changed her mind after a member of her church urged her to reconsider. She got her first jab last week.

“I had to pray about it, and I felt better after that,” Pringle told AP.

Medical and public health experts have continued to urge people in the US to get vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 561,000 people across the country – the highest death rate in the world.

The US, which has reported over 31 million cases to date, has authorised three vaccines for emergency use: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

So far, more than 178.8 million vaccine doses have been administered countrywide, while 68.2 million people are considered fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recent surveys have shown that more Americans in general say they intend to get vaccinated than previously did.

The Pew Research Center reported in early March that 19 percent of US adults said they had already received at least one dose, while another 50 percent said they probably or definitely would get vaccinated.

“Taken together, 69 percent of the public intends to get a vaccine – or already has – up significantly from 60 percent who said they planned to get vaccinated in November,” it said.

Other recent surveys show that attitudes towards vaccines are split along political lines. A survey at Monmouth University released last month found that 36 percent of Republicans said they would avoid the vaccine compared with just six percent of Democrats.

That prompted top US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, to call on former President Donald Trump to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, experts are urging Americans to take whichever vaccine is available to protect themselves and avoid delays.

“When people come in, I always advise them to get the vaccine that’s available because you never know what vaccine is going to be available the next time,” Reham Awad, a pharmacy intern in the Chicago area, told Al Jazeera this week.

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Erdogan urges end to Ukraine tension, offers Turkey’s support | Conflict News




Turkish president says tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over Donbass conflict have to be resolved through dialogue.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support.

Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks in Istanbul on Saturday amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the long-running conflict in Donbass.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskyy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Erdogan said.

Zelenskyy said the views of Kyiv and Ankara coincided regarding the threats in the region and as well as responses to those threats.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s cooperation with Ukraine in the defence industry, which was the main item on the meeting’s agenda, was not a move against any third countries.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Ukraine was purchasing Turkey’s military drones.

She also said that “new generation drones will be equipped with the Ukrainian engines”.

Regional tensions

Zelenskyy’s visit to Turkey comes amid renewed tensions in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

In a visit to troops there this week, Zelenskyy said breaches of a July truce were increasing.

Separatist authorities have also accused Ukrainian forces of violating the ceasefire.

Russia has reinforced its troops along the border and warned Ukraine against trying to retake control of the separatist-controlled territory.

Kyiv rejects that it is preparing for an offensive. The Russian military buildup has raised concerns in the United States and Europe.

The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke on the phone on Friday. Among the issues discussed was Ukraine.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that Ukraine “recently resumed dangerous provocations on the contact line”.

Turkey is a NATO member. But Erdogan and Putin have forged a close personal relationship, sealing energy and trade deals.

They have also negotiated for opposing sides in conflicts, including Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Erdogan’s office also said he would discuss with Zelenskyy the living conditions of Crimean Tatars, who have ethnic links to Turks. Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

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Libya kicks off delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive | Coronavirus pandemic News




Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives shot on live television, urges Libyans to register online for their own vaccinations.

Libya has launched its delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the country’s new unity government, getting his shot on live television.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of about 167,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million. Its healthcare system has struggled to cope during the pandemic, strained by years of political turmoil and violence.

After the vaccination of Dbeibah on Saturday at the headquarters of Libya’s Centre for Disease Control on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, alongside more than 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the COVAX programme for lower and middle-income countries.

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations. He has earmarked the vaccination campaign as a policy priority, alleging that the delivery of the shots was hindered by outgoing authorities.

“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations,” he said.

Dbeibah’s interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Dbeibah was selected earlier this year through a United Nations-sponsored Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December.

His government replaces two warring administrations based in Tripoli and the country’s east, the latter loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Hafar. The rival authorities have given their backing to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can exit a decade of crisis.

‘Better late than never’

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya, which has lately been detecting about 1,000 new daily infections.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

“I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never,” shop owner Ali al-Hadi told Reuters news agency, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.

Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.

“We hope the health ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients,” said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33.

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