Kenya Watch

Kenya’s new constitution: Which way will it go?


At the heart of the call for governance reform in Kenya since the beginning of 1990’s, the constitution has occupied a central chapter. After several failed attempts, last year through the referendum, Kenyans endorsed a new draft constitution. However the road ahead is not entirely smooth. A few months ago, the President unilaterally appointed several high level court officers without the consultation of the coalition partners. This was contrary to the spirit of the coalition’s agreement, as well as the new constitution. Further, in a country that has endured centralized power since independence; the devolution of power to the local authorities accompanied by other robust safeguard measures will come as a shock to system set in doing things the old way.

Additionally, politicians and the business elite, who have benefitted from the status quo will not let go easily. Their influence and interests are vast and span eras, beginning with Kenyatta, then Moi and now Kibaki. At micro-level how successful they will be in thwarting meaningful and genuine reform is a question that remains. At the macro-level, however, the enactment of a new constitutional order that that places emphasis on accountability, checks and balances, and devolution of power down to the local level, will definitely upset their interests. The question of whether Kenya can withstand such a political overhaul is key. Significantly, this new constitutional dispensation will hinge on the outcome of the next year’s election, i.e. if the forces of reform triumph over the forces of the status quo.

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