Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Animal-Driven Constitution

An Animal-Driven Constitution

          ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me another story about the awful King Chimbwi.’
          ‘The most awful story about the awful King Chimbwi is called The Animal-Driven Constitution,’I replied.
          ‘Grandpa, what’s a constootion?’
          ‘Listen to the story,’ I replied, ‘then you’ll find out.’

          A long time ago, most of the animals in Africa lived in a beautiful paradise in the Lower Zambezi Valley, in a country called Chiawa, which was ruled over by the rough and bossy King Chimbwi.
          One day, when the animals met at their watering hole, they began to discuss the problems they were having with King Chimbwi. They had to discuss in whispers, for fear of attack by the king’s secret police, his wild dogs and jackals.
          ‘We are living in the forest like animals,’ complained Monkey, ‘while the King lives in a huge palace and eats us one by one.’
          ‘Not only that,’ said Lion, ‘but he has let in these humans with their guns, and they are killing us like Sitting Ducks.’
          ‘I’m not a Sitting Duck,’ said Duck, ‘I can fly.’
          ‘These humans are cutting down all the trees and giving money to the King. Soon we shall have no forest to live in,’ said Giraffe.
          ‘The King never listens to us,’ said Zebra, ‘he only listens to his friends, the wild dogs and jackals who come looking for us at night.’
          ‘There is only one thing to do,’ said Elephant gravely. ‘We must draw up a Constitution and give it to the King!’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said all the other animals. ‘What’s that?’
          ‘A Constitution,’ explained Elephant, ‘is a set of rules on how the king must govern this country. Now he has all the power and thinks he can do anything, however foolish or murderous. We the animals must write a Constitution so that he is brought under control. That is what is meant by an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          So that’s what the animals did. But it was a long and difficult job because most of the animals couldn’t read or write. And they had to do the job secretly, so that the wild dogs and jackals didn’t find out. But finally, after twenty years, the animals wrote out the ten rules of their Constitution on white bark cloth made from an Acacia Tree. And this is what it said:
                 Rules of the Constitution
1.                    All animals are equal
2.                    No animal shall be above the law
3.                   All animals must obey the law
4.                   All animals have freedom of expression
5.                   All animals have right of assembly
6.                  All animals shall have freedom of movement
7.                  Elephants shall protect animals from the King 
8.                  No humans shall be allowed into the Kingdom
9.                 Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chiawan
10.            No King may rule for more than 5 years

            Armed with their Constitution, they all went to the palace, where they found King Chimbwi rolling in the grass with one of his forty-nine concubines. And Elephant said solemnly ‘Oh King Chimbwi, we the animals of Chiawa, have brought you a Constitution.’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said the King gruffly. ‘What’s that? Can I eat it?’
          ‘It sets out the rules by which we the animals demand to be governed,’ said Elephant calmly. ‘It is an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          ‘Of course it is,’ scoffed the King. ‘Whoever heard of a Human-Driven Constootion!’ And so saying, he opened his large mouth and swallowed it, washing it down with a bucket of chibuku. ‘Maybe this Constootion will cure my Constipation. I have swallowed it so that I can digest it properly. And when I have fully digested it, and ruminated upon it, we shall one day see it again, and then I shall nail it to the palace wall.’
          And all the Animals waited another twenty years for their Constitution, because the Constipation of the King was very severe, so things moved very slowly at the palace. But finally, after another twenty years, the Constitution reappeared, nailed to the palace wall. The once beautiful white bark cloth was now badly soiled and smelly, and on it was written:

           Rules of the Constitution
1.               All animals are equal, but the King is more equal
2.              The King shall be above the law
3.              All animals shall obey the King
4.             Only the King shall have freedom of expression
5.             All animals have right of assembly, in groups of no more than two
6.             All Chimbwi shall have freedom of movement
7.             Elephants shall protect the King from other animals
8.             No humans shall enter the Kingdom without a hunting license
9.             Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chimbwi
10.        No King may rule for more than 50 years

     ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘That was a King-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘That’s what all the animals said,’ I admitted. ‘But the King declared that he was also an animal, and therefore this was an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘So how did the story end?’ asked Nawiti.
     ‘The animals were so angry that he was lucky to escape with his life. He fled to Holland with all his bars of gold.’
     ‘And lived in another palace?’
     ‘No. His gold was taken from him at the port because he didn’t have an import license, and then he was put behind bars in a zoo in The Hague.’
     ‘Why was that?’ Nawiti wondered.
     ‘Because,’ I explained, ‘Holland has a People-Driven Constitution.’

[Adapted from a story by Eric Blair]

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