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Referendums In Kenya: KNCHR'S Journey Towards Ensuring Political Accountability And Respect For Human Rights In Kenya's Constitutional Process Making

Referendums In Kenya: KNCHR'S Journey Towards Ensuring Political Accountability And Respect For Human Rights In Kenya's Constitutional Process Making


Kenya has had a very interesting constitutional history. Kenya’s independence talks were carried out in constitutional conferences held at Lancaster House, London and Nairobi in 1963. It was at these talks that the independence Constitution was prepared. In May of the same year elections were held on the principle of one person, one vote leading to victory for the Kenya African National Union (KANU).

Kenya Internal self-rule was attained on 1st June 1963, when the country was allowed to form its first internal self-government and attained its full independence on 12 December, 1963. In 1964, Kenya did away with the Queen as the Head of State by becoming a Republic with an executive President. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who had been the Prime Minister became the first President of Kenya.

The opposition, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) merged with KANU, thus making Kenya a de facto one-party state.

The 1963 Constitution of Kenya has been amended several times since independence. The most far-reaching amendments are those which dismantled the multi-party democracy and ushered in a one-party State and later the reversal of that system and the re-introduction of a multiparty political system in the 1990s.

  1. In 1982 two events of constitutional importance for Kenya took place:There was an attempt to remove the government from power through unconstitutional means – i.e., via use of military force by some sections of the Kenyan army and Air force renegades. This coup was unsuccessful.
  2. Kenya which had only been a de facto one-party State was officially declared a de jure one party State. This was done through the adoption of Section 2A of the Constitution by Parliament, followed by protracted struggles by Kenyans demanding for the resumption of multi-party dispensation in the country. These pro-democracy struggles took various forms including seminars, workshops and at times mass demonstrations which were sometimes quelled by use of excessive force by the members of the police force. The most prominent of the demonstrations were those referred to as the “Saba Saba” uprisings of 1990.

After the failed military coup of 1982, the ruling regime embarked on a process of purging elements in the military, government and academia who were viewed as being dissidents with intents of undermining the government. Detention without trial and crackdown of ‘revolutionary movements’ and the free media became common-place. For all intents and purposes, Kenya was a one party dictatorship between 1982 and 1991.

The next phase of reforms, which took place over the period between 1989 and 1992, was triggered by the fall of the former Soviet Union and subsequently the Berlin wall, which marked the collapse of global communism and the genesis of a wind of change in favor of Western style democracy and the end of the cold war.

The authoritarian nature of the government of Kenya resulted in a state of affairs where appointments to public office were based on loyalty to the President and the ruling party rather than merit, experience and capacity of the office holders. The result was poor economic management and intermittent breaking of relations with the country’s major bilateral donors. Levels of corruption escalated at the same rate at which the standards of living of citizens plummeted. Budgetary indiscipline compounded into a crippling domestic debt problem. The government’s operations and maintenance budget dropped from 46% in 1980 to 25% in 1996 even with increasing donor assistance. A year later in 1991 Section 2A was repealed and political pluralism was allowed once again in Kenya. Continue Reading:



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