The New Constitution was promulgated on 27 August 2010. The image that is probably etched on most Kenyans’ minds from this period is the former president, Mwai Kibaki, holding the constitution up with a grin on his face with ecstatic Kenyans wildly cheering. Oh and we all (or at least some of us anyway) learned that the word promulgate exists and what it means. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a reminder. Promulgate: Formally proclaim or declaring a new statutory or administrative law in effect.
Here’s a quick history lesson. The 2010 constitution replaced the 1969 constitution which had replaced the 1963 constitution. The 1969 constitution differed from the 1963 constitution in the following major ways: Changed the governing structure from a federal to a unitary system, went from a bicameral legislature to a unicameral one and entrenched a powerful presidency. This powerful presidency was again reinvigorated by the 1982 amendment that saw Kenya become a single party state. The call for a democratic state put pressure on the then government to repeal the amendment in 1991 and Kenya was once again a multi-party state.
It was a long time coming and the road to its realization was paved with many false starts, including the botched Bomas Draft. Finally, after renewed efforts that put together a harmonized draft, the constitution was approved by 67% of Kenyans at a referendum on 4 August and subsequently promulgated 23 days later.
The New Constitution has been hailed as one of the best in the world. Suffice to say, it is a forward looking document that sets Kenya on the path to a thriving democracy. There is the issue of the bloated government, but that is something that can be fixed and in no way takes away from the spirit of the document. Some of the notable changes that came with the New Constitution include: A devolved system of government, an advanced bill of rights, the gender two-third rule, independence of the judiciary, creation of the National Land Commission as well as The Salaries and Remuneration Commission. Article 1(4) of the New Constitution recognizes that the sovereign power of the people is exercised at both the National and the County levels.
The Kenyan Constitution is currently a document that puts the citizens’ welfare first and looks to include Kenyans in the building of the nation and create an environment that fosters unity in this nation building. The advanced bill of rights and devolution that has led to services being closer to the people, are two gains that in my opinion cannot be taken for granted. These and other gains must be protected. It’s easy as citizens to be apathetic when it comes to the politics of the country. However, it must be stressed that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. It took 41 years for us to get this constitution. In those 41 years, blood was shed, opportunities were lost and a country was brought to its knees. We who are fortunate to be living in current times, must recognize that we have a part to play in the growth of our country. The constitution makes room for citizen participation and the power of citizens’ to hold leaders accountable. We must take these responsibilities seriously, our history and those who changed it demand of us, not only for ourselves but also for future generations.