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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid