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Breaking constitutions is often easier than making them. Kenya’s first two presidents, Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, took a hatchet to the one negotiated at independence from Britain in 1963.

By the time the butchery ended, Kenya was a one-party state run by untouchable kleptocrats. Fixing the damage took decades. Under international and domestic pressure, Moi repealed the provision banning all parties but his own in 1991. But it took 19 more years of bitter struggle before Kenya again had a constitution worthy of the name.

In recent years the hatchets have been out again. Kenya’s politicians finally accepted a new dispensation after post-election bloodshed claimed more than 1,000 lives in 2007-08. But the chastening effect of the violence did not last long.

After another election controversy, in 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president (and Jomo’s son) joined forces with Raila Odinga, his rival-turned-sidekick, to push for yet another constitutional overhaul under the sweetly named Building Bridges Initiative (bbi). On August 20th Kenya’s Court of Appeal thwarted the initiative and granted the constitution from 2010 a reprieve. The Economist

 

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