News / Africa

New Constitution Means Major Changes for Kenya

A man casts his ballot in during Kenya's constitutional referendum
A man casts his ballot in during Kenya's constitutional referendum

In a referendum held during the first week of August, voters in Kenya overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, replacing one that was drafted during the country's colonial era.   Among other things, the document sets out a Bill of Rights, creates a National Land Commission, and de-centralizes political power.  Many Kenyans see the vote as paving the way for greater government accountability and a fairer distribution of resources.  But analysts say the tough work is just beginning.

Some lined up for hours to tick off either a green "Yes" box or a red "No" box on their ballots.  In the end, almost 70 percent of Kenyans who voted threw their weight behind the "Yes" side.

"In the Kenyan history for women, we have not had so many rights, especially for inheritance (and) land: the men inherit; it is very traditional. So for us now [the new constitution] is giving us rights as women to be able to inherit land, equal opportunities, all those things," said Violet Kairu, one of the "Yes" supporters.

This is the first time in Kenya's post-colonial history that the constitution has been changed.  The push for a new constitution began in the early 1990s, but a previous referendum failed to pass.

The new document contains Kenya's first-ever Bill of Rights, which states that every Kenyan has the right to such basics as clean water, decent housing, sanitation, and an adequate supply and quality of food.

Fred Olendo is with the National Council of NGOs, an umbrella group that works with national and international aid agencies.  He thinks the Bill of Rights will ensure a better life for the almost 50 percent of Kenyans living below the poverty line.

"If we do not have enough food and housing, the government cannot use money for things like building roads or other areas," said Olendo.  "It will also put in the mind of the employees or the general populace that everybody has a right to eat, and everybody has a right to access to housing, so that if you employ somebody, you have to pay them the salary that can make them have a decent meal and decent housing."

In parts of the country such as northern Kenya, that have largely been ignored in development plans, an Equalization Fund will be used to provide basic services such as water, roads and health care.

The new constitution also deals with land ownership, a highly emotional issue.  The allocation of land based on ethnicity, gender or political allegiance was a trend that started in colonial days and continues up to the present.

Now, there will be a National Land Commission, with the power to re-possess illegally-occupied public land, an important step according to Moses Ikiara, executive director of the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis..

"If you do not do that, then the fight against impunity cannot go very, very far, so long as you make sure that there is no witch-hunting, investigation about the grabbing of public land is done properly without scoring political scores and other kinds of things," said Ikiara.

The National Land Commission is also charged with forming a national land policy, something Kenyans have been advocating for decades, and with ensuring that women are able to inherit land.

Many Kenyans are looking to the new constitution to curb excessive power in the president's office, government corruption, and non-performance by Members of Parliament.

"If any leader, somebody, has been accused of corruption, convicted of corruption and other cases, they cannot compete for public office," added Ikiara.  "Once this is implemented, and you bring in governance improvement, you bring in discipline in terms of how the public resources are used, [and] then we are likely to actually have efficiency."

Groups such as the National Council of NGOs plan to conduct civic education programs, says the NGO Council's Fred Olendo.

"You can have a right, but if you do not demand for your right, you cannot benefit from it," said Olendo.  "The Kenyan people must also rise up and know the provisions, what there is in the constitution. They should not just move on and vote, like the voting that was done. Not that very many people read the constitution."

The new constitution is scheduled to be promulgated August 27.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid