Four Years on: Assessing Gains made in the Kenya Constitution
As Kenya marked four years since the promulgation of the constitution (August 2010) all constitutional commissions and independent commissions met at the Lake side city of Kisumu County to critically assess the implementation of the constitution. In attendance was H.E the Deputy President William Ruto, UNDP Country Director Maria-Threase Keating and Kisumu County Governor, Jack Ranguma. The Deputy President said that the Government was committed to the devolved system of governance, and said the country had made significant strides in a record one and a half years to establish the two –level governance structure comprising a national government and 47 county governments.
“Devolution is the answer to marginalization and exclusion. People wanted development at the grassroots, and this has been achieved under this constitution. We believe that it will also lead to prudent use of public resources and enhanced service delivery” Said Ruto.
These sentiments were shared by Governor Ranguma who said that due to devolution, his county was set to meet a number of the Millennium development Goals by 2015.
Constitutional Commissions in the congress included the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Transition Authority, Commission on Administrative Justice, Kenya Human National Commission on Human Rights and National Gender and Equality Commission, Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission, Teachers Service Commission amongst others. Independent Offices on the other hand include the Office of the Attorney General and the Auditor General. They all agreed to continue working together to realize common objectives under a common theme “Deliver as one to secure Kenya” with calls for collaborative action towards public service delivery and having joint interventions and responses to constitution without compromising their independence and their individual mandates.
UNDP has greatly supported a number of these institutions in facilitating them to deliver on their respective mandates and by extension contributing to the realization of rule of law in Kenya. While representing the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Maria-Threase Keating, the UNDP Country Director lauded the renewed working together call under the framework of delivering as one. She noted that such a rallying call defined principles under which the UN system in Kenya had designed and was implementing its United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF for 2014 – 2018. A human rights based programme framework in partnership with the Government of Kenya in contributing to realization of Kenya’s development objectives. She called upon the CC&IOs to take on board the voice of the people in line with the public participation principles. She noted that the Constitution embeded participation of the public as one of its key principles, and therefore the need for enhancing civic engagement in matters of governance.”
In assessing the progress of the implementation process, Nyachae said the devolution was on course, and Kenyans are benefiting from a more rights based approach to governance and though there have been hiccups in some of the legislations required by the constitution to be enforced, there was enough goodwill that will see the legislative framework implemented.
The Chairman however cited various challenges that the country is facing in full implementation of the constitution including Limited civic awareness on the constitution where majority of Kenyans are yet to understand the provisions of the constitution, strained intergovernmental relations as seen in the differences between the national and county executives and the legislative arms of governments and allegations of misuse of funds by county government officials, both in the county executive and county assembly, which has in turn eroded, public trust in the implementation of devolution.
“As the custodians of sovereign power, you the people have a civic responsibility to monitor the work of public offices towards actualizing the letter and spirit of the constitution. This will entail active participation in policy making and development planning and, flagging violations to the constitution” said Nyachae.
The CIC Chairman said there was a right to call for amendment of the Constitution but said “the challenge if and when we choose to amend the constitution, is how we do so without adversely affecting the fundamental gains that Kenyans gave to themselves in adopting the constitution”.
The Kenyan constitution has been lauded as one of the most progressive constitutions and is said to be people centered and incorporates a comprehensive bill of Rights, with special emphasis on economic, social and cultural rights.