New Kenya constitution takes effect on August 27


(eTN) – The administration in Kenya has set Friday, August 27 as the day when the new constitution will be signed into effect by President Mwai Kibaki during a grand ceremony in Nairobi. The day is expected to be announced as a public holiday, giving Kenyans a long weekend to celebrate the onset of a new period in their so far checkered history.

After the death of the founder president and father of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta, a coup attempt was made on August 1, 1981, which descended into a one party and literal police state before the onset of multi-party politics – under severe pressure from foreign countries – then opened the political spectrum. Yet, pre-election violence during those early days from 1992 onwards maintained oppression, and it was only when former president Daniel arap Moi had to leave office, having completed his permitted two terms of office, that the scenario of local politics began to reshape.

However, corruption scandals kept rocking President Kibaki’s first government, and in 2005 a first attempt to introduce a new constitution bounced, following widespread bickering in government and across society. The post-election violence, following the end of December 2007 general elections, then saw Kenya descend into a state of near anarchy, rocking the country and the region. The intervention of former UN supremo Kofi Annan eventually helped to establish a coalition government, the first ever in post independence Kenya. Their promise on taking office, to draft a new constitution and take it to the voters, was finally fulfilled last week, offering the assurance of better days ahead.

A number of foreign dignitaries, including heads of state from the region, are expected to witness the momentous occasion when President Kibaki will affix his signature and presidential seal on the new constitution. More than two thirds of voters have endorsed the new supreme law in a referendum last week, which – although hotly contested in the run up – unfolded in a mature and peaceful manner. This appears to have disappointed some global media organizations, which had dispatched large teams to cover any potential outbreak of violence, only to then sit on their hands and witness how well voting and counting went.

Once the new constitution is formally brought into effect, the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament will then once again take a formal oath of office under the new constitution following which all member of parliament will also have to be sworn in afresh.

Parliament will then fast track a number of new laws to operationalize the new constitution, said to be about 50, and all drafted already by the Kenyan Attorney General’s office in anticipation of the big day. One of the major changes will be the option of dual nationality for Kenyans, the introduction of a second legislative chamber, the abolition of the post of Prime Minister, and changes in the appointment of members of the judiciary, all aimed at giving more power to the legislature and trimming the previous almost absolute powers of the presidency. All the best wishes to Kenya and her people and peace and prosperity for the future.