The Constitution of Kenya is the supreme law of Kenya. It establishes the structure of the Kenyan government, and also defines the relationship between the government and the citizens of Kenya. The current Kenyan constitution was enacted on 27th August 2010, replacing the older one that had been in place since Independence in 1963.
The promulgation of the new supreme law was a great historic moment and marked the end of a 20 – year struggle for change. An overwhelming majority – 67 per cent – voted Yes on August 4, 2010, endorsing the document.
The Constitution has a preamble, 18 chapters and six schedules. The preamble affirms the acceptance by all Kenyans to adopt the constitution for themselves and for all future generations. Among other functions, the six schedules describe the national symbols of Kenya and also prescribe the oaths of office for holders of different constitutional offices.
What is a Constitution?
A constitution is a general understanding among members of a group who have identified their common interests/needs and how the interests may be achieved. This understanding is sometimes referred to as organizational rules.
Why are Constitutions Important?
Constitutions are important because they:
- Define and give identity to individuals/members who come together.
- Determine members’/citizens’ responsibilities i.e. participation in elections, paying of taxes, monitoring government programmes, etc.
- Establish government structures, authorities, positions and offices.
- Provide structures, offices, powers to be exercised in trust for the people.
- Check authority, powers given to protect individual rights.
- Guarantee checks on authorities by separating their functions and roles.
- Ensure accountability, transparency and responsiveness.
- Enable individual effort to be harnessed for national wealth.
- Ensure wealth is distributed for common services that promote individual wellbeing.
Modern constitutions the world over are expected to meet certain basic expectations.
- A preamble as an opening introduction to spell out the basis of the constitution.
- Rights, privileges and benefits of citizens. responsibilities of citizens.
- Independent structures that safeguard and guarantee citizens’ rights and benefits.
- Equitable distribution of resources.
- Clear separation of roles and powers.
- Clear checks and balances on power both horizontally and vertically.
- Participation of citizens in the overall governance and at immediate levels.
- Provision for equality and affirmative action for the minorities and the marginalized.
What Kind of Constitution have Kenyans been looking for?
From the views collected by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) in 2004, and subsequently by the Committee of Experts, Kenyans want a constitution that:
- Recognizes them, their values and aspirations.
- Safeguards and respects the rule of law.
- Promotes peoples’ involvement and effective
- Participation in government.
- Expands the Bill of Rights to include socioeconomic, and cultural rights and group rights.
- Checks the powers of the President.
- Clearly allocates and separates powers of State organs.
- Promotes understanding, transparency and
- Accountability in public affairs.
- Creates proper checks and balances in governance.
- Provides for a devolved government.
- Provides for equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.
- Contains affirmative action and prohibits all discrimination.
The Kenyan Constitution is comprised of the following 18 Chapters:
- Chapter One: Sovereignty of the people and supremacy of the constitution
- Chapter Two: The republic
- Chapter Three: Citizenship
- Chapter Four: The bill of rights
- Chapter Five: Land and environment
- Chapter Six: Leadership and integrity
- Chapter Seven: Representation of the people
- Chapter Eight: The legislature
- Chapter Nine: The executive
- Chapter Ten: Judiciary
- Chapter Eleven: Devolved government
- Chapter Twelve: Public finance
- Chapter Thirteen: The public service
- Chapter Fourteen: National security
- Chapter Fifteen: Commissions and independent offices
- Chapter Sixteen: Amendment of the constitution
- Chapter Seventeen: General provisions
- Chapter Eighteen: Transitional and consequential provisions