Recently, early June 2022, the Azimio Presidential candidate Raila Odinga while launching his coalition's manifesto, mentioned that his government would ban importation of second-hand clothes popularly known as mitumba and revive the long-dead and once thriving textile industry. Maybe due to lack of proper articulation, that has been taken to mean Raila's government will kill that sector once elected. The truthfulness of that or lack of it, is one issue I wouldn't want to delve into especially during this hot political season.

My focus is on what does the two unifying factors say about this mitumba debate. That is the president and the constitution. The president can speak for himself but we can easily check out our constitution.

After years of fighting for constitution review, Kenya in the year 2010 managed to gift herself a constitution said to be one of the most democratic and progressive not only in Africa but in the world. This is because this supreme document of our republic captures our core national values and clearly spells out how we should engage with one another and how the world should engage with us.

The bills of rights Article 28 states "Every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected."
Every Kenyan citizen has inherent dignity - a social status one is born with and the supreme document of the land recognizes it.

It is this dignity which is lost when a foreign country forces us to wear their used clothes. It is this dignity the government has failed to respect and protect by allowing wanton importation of mitumba clothes. Some of these used clothes are shipped in dirty, soiled and torn for a Kenyan to wear! There is no dignity in wearing a previously worn bra or underwear. Could there be a co-relation between wearing used clothes and recycling of the same politicians, not leaders, who steal from us. Psychologists can help here.

The Constitution further affirms the sovereignty of the people of this great nation. Article 1 (1) states that "All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya".
It is this power the people have delegated to the Executive and the executive has carelessly handed it over to America through skewed trade agreements.

In forcing us to import its used clothes, America has essentially violated our sovereignty and dignity. The time is ripe for the Kenyan government to follow the route of its younger brother, Rwanda and develop our textile industry progressively. The AGOA agreement must operate within the confines of our constitution.

It is clear our constitution upholds our dignity and sovereignty and nothing short of that should be welcomed within our borders.

In closing let me pose a question, if today, I bought a new shirt from Khan's shop along Latema road, wear it for six months, can I export it for resale in some American neighbourhood? Think Kenya Think!

By Muhia N.
Legal Researcher


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