Constitution Implementation – State of Play Four Years on

Posted by on 28th August 2014

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The Constitution of Kenya 2010 turns 4 this week, giving us a chance to reflect on the gains and missteps that have marked the implementation exercise.

At the centre of the 20 year clamour for a new Constitution was the need to give the public a say in Kenya’s governance and development. This was meant to ensure the interests of the Kenyans are always represented as well as to provide a check against the wanton misuse and waste of public resources.

Article 1 of the Constitution lodges all sovereign power with the people of Kenya to be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution. This sovereign power can be exercised either directly or through democratically elected representatives.

Other major gains of the new dispensation included:

i)                    Clear separation of powers between Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive;

ii)                   Devolution of power and responsibilities between National and County governments;

iii)                 Establishment of independent commissions;

iv)                 Mainstreaming of public participation into the governance architecture.

Taking stock of where we are since the promulgation of the constitution it is apparent that MPs and Senators still control the public political discourse and sometimes slow down Executive arm and County governments in the execution of their tasks.  And although most of the laws that were to be in place by August 2013 were enacted; the deliberation processes were rushed and most have diluted ideals set out in the Constitution, case in point the laws on Elections, Election Campaign Finance and Political Parties.

Parliament has not prioritised laws that were to be enacted by August 2014 in line with the 5th Schedule of the Constitution. The laws expected included those on: Values and Principles of Public Service, Public Procurement and Disposal; Public Audits; Fair Administrative Action; Persons Deprived Liberty and Environment Management Coordination. These laws are critical in prescribing Public Officials conduct, checking corruption and waste and guarding the rights of people under custody.

At the same time, minimal civic education has been done so far. Most Kenyans still do not know the gains afforded them by the Constitution and their responsibility to engage their public officials on all levels. At the National Government level formal public participation opportunities remain limited to the election and budgetary processes.

While more opportunities for public engagement exist at county level, events in which the public can participate often register low turnout as the public remains largely unaware of their responsibility to engage and its importance. For the most part the public appears still beholden to its leaders in many ways and do not realize they have the responsibility to question them.

For the gains enshrined in the Constitution to be realized, civic education should on the long term be mainstreamed to the education system and on the short-term be an all year round affair until  the next 2017 election. The public needs to own the Constitution and ensure their leaders keep its ideals alive! Thoughts?