News / Africa

Landmark Moment as New Kenyan Constitution Takes Effect

Multimedia

Audio
Michael Onyiego

In an historic ceremony Friday morning, thousands of Kenyan's gathered to witness the establishment of a new constitution in the east African nation. The implementation of the new document is being hailed across the country as the birth of the second Kenyan Republic.

Despite gray skies and light rain, an estimated 10,000 packed into Nairobi's Uhuru Park to take part in the much anticipated Promulgation Day festivities.

The parade ground was filled with excitement as onlookers cheered visiting dignitaries and Kenyan leaders entering the venue. Recently re-elected Rwandan President Paul Kagame received a particularly warm reception from the Kenyan crowd as he took his seat. The event was attended by a handful of other African leaders, including the controversial Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir, recently indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide, was met with silence by the otherwise boisterous crowd.

The event was as much a formal procedure as a celebration of Kenyan society, replete with a full display of the country's military might, traditional dancers from Kenya's various ethnic groups and an appearance by many of the country's champion runners.

The historic ceremony took place just three weeks after Kenya approved the new constitution through an August 4th referendum. The day was billed as a celebration of national unity and diversity, with much symbolism reinforcing that message, but there were signs of lingering resentment from contentious debate regarding the constitution.

Former President Daniel Moi, one of the most vocal opponents of the new constitution, received audible jeers from the crowd upon entering the park. Catholic Cardinal John Njue, who strongly opposed the document over its clauses on abortion, was heckled by many onlookers as he delivered a prayer to open the ceremony.

The event was otherwise peaceful and representative of a collective pride in finally establishing a new set of laws for the nation. With the thousands in attendance looking on President Mwai Kibaki signed the Instruments of Promulgation and declared Kenya's new constitution.

Mr. Kibaki: "I, Mwai Kibaki, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya, declare that the constitution set out in the schedule shall be the new constitution of Kenya, in effect from the 27th August, the year 2010."

President Mwai Kibaki has been one of the new constitution's most visible proponents since the beginning of the reform process. Many believe that Friday's ceremony will be the crowning achievement of the two-term president's legacy, as he prepares to leave office in 2012.

After President Kibaki signed the document, he and other members of Kenya's executive and judiciary swore oaths under the new constitution.

Perhaps the loudest cheers of the morning came as Prime Minister Raila Odinga took his oath of allegiance. The popular leader, expected by many to become the next president, worked the crowd into a frenzy as he swore his allegiance to the country.

Odinga: "I, Raila Omolo Odinga, in full realization of the high calling as the prime minister of the Republic of Kenya do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Republic of Kenya, that I will obey, preserve, protect and defend this constitution of Kenya as by law established and all other laws of the republic, and that I will protect and uphold the sovereignty, integrity and dignity of the people of Kenya, so help me God."

The new constitution's entrance into force marks what many have called the birth of the second Kenyan Republic. The former constitution, in place since independence from Britain 1963, was seen by many as a relic of the colonial era. Kenya has been trying to replace the document since the early 1990s, but deep political and ethnic divisions within Kenyan society blocked all previous attempts.

In many ways the foundation for this new era was laid in 2008 during post-election chaos that left over 1,000 dead. After President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga disputed the results of the December 2007 presidential elections, nearly two months of ethnic violence swept across the country.

The peace agreement forged between the two leaders formed a Government of National Unity and set in motion the process of constitutional reform. The cooperation of the two principles along with the widespread support of the process has inspired international confidence in Kenya's democracy.

Kenya will now begin the process of transition to the new constitution. While many provisions in the document take immediate effect, changes to the country's governing structure will be phased in gradually, and the new set of laws is not expected to be fully operational until after the presidential elections in 2012.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid