Kenyans voted decisively for a new constitution that they hope will put their country firmly on track to good governance, writes PATRICK WACHIRA
THE passing of Kenya’s new constitution by more than 60 per cent of the puts the country firmly on the threshold of a new order both literally and figuratively.
The adoption of the new document is seen as the start of a new chapter, not only in governance but also in the exercise of power, what with a devolved system of governance empowers some 47 odd counties, gives citizens greater say in legislation, outlines a comprehensive Bill of Rights and ensures more equitable distribution of land.
East Africa’s biggest economy, still smarting from the effects of the 2008 post-poll violence that left 1,500 people dead and some 300,000 displaced, some to date, will get a massive shot in the arm, with the new constitution that has in place dispute resolution mechanisms that are aimed at checking a repeat of the violence that rocked the nation and shocked the world.
As this country of an estimated 40 million people set about putting its house in order, some 64,000 security officers stood watch as more than 6 million voters trooped to the polling booths to have their say, watched by 4,612 monitors and 150 international observers.
A new constitutional dispensation was one of the items of Agenda 4 of the National Cohesion and Reconciliation Act, passed by Parliament as a prelude to ensuring that the violence that captured the attention of the entire world does not recur. And the new document seeks to do that, with chapters and provisions that clearly stipulate transition processes and makes the government more accountable.
The fight against graft, seen by many as an obstacle to foreign investment as well as local business players, also shot a notch higher with the appointment of constitutional lawyer and university don P.L.O. Lumumba as head of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, deputised by another veteran barrister Pravin Bowry.
The presence of graft, seen as endemic for a long time, was so serious that the UK announced last year that it would deny visas to perpetrators of graft and post-election violence in Kenya.
US Vice President Joe Biden said in June that the adoption of a new constitution would attract enormous foreign investment and spur unprecedented economic growth. “Too many of your institutions have lost the people’s confidence,” said he. And now is the time to turn the tide.
Both he and US ambassador Michael Ranneberger have been in the spotlight, with the “No” campaign group saying the US was finding the “Yes” campaigns, thus tilting the game unfavourably in favour of the former.
The accusations were made by Agriculture minister William Ruto who has been the de facto leader of the “No” group but the ambassador rubbished the claims, saying it was not true his country was taking sides but was only assisting Kenyans achieve what they had always desired.
As early as January, Ranneberger had said, emphatically, that “despite the country having many tribes, it can still succeed if leaders come together and speak with one voice through a constitution accepted by all.” His opinion has been that reforms envisaged under Agenda 4 have been on course, even though incomplete.
And it emerged, last month that the envoy was echoing the sentiments of President Barrack Obama who is keen to see a new constitution is in place. Indeed, observers have been quick to point out that after Obama sent to Kenya his Secretary of State Hilary Clinton early this year and later Biden his own visit may be next.
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