Katiba at 10: A Landmark Constitution and a Blueprint for Deepening Democracy

Credit: William Oeri / NATION MEDIA GROUP

By External Source
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 26 2020 (IPS)

On 27 August 2020, we mark the tenth anniversary of the New
Constitution of Kenya – a landmark social contract inspired by
citizens’ desire for a country characterised by participatory
governance, inclusive development, human rights and the rule of

The Katiba is ground-breaking in many ways. First and foremost,
it was borne out of extensive consultation by a wide cross-section
of Kenyans who debated intensely and passionately to ensure a real
people’s constitution.

As recognised in Article 1, sovereign power is now vested in the
people of Kenya. Further, it gives prominence to national values
and principles of governance, including the rule of law, democracy,
public participation, human rights, equality, social justice,
accountability and sustainable development. Giving life to these
principles, the Bill of Rights recognises and protects a spectrum
of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and serves as the
framework for social, economic and cultural policies.

The Bill of Rights guarantees economic, social and cultural
rights – such as the rights to health, housing, water, education,
freedom from hunger and a clean environment. The Constitution also
provides for specific protections and affirmative action for
children, youth, persons with disabilities, minorities and
marginalised groups, to promote their participation, representation
and equal enjoyment of rights. The authority of courts to uphold
the Bill of Rights, and apply international law as part of the law
of Kenya, is a critical feature to enable the people to claim and
seek enforcement of their constitutional rights.

The guarantees in the Bill of Rights bear an unmistakable
closeness to most of the issues identified in the global
sustainable development goals, while the Constitution itself also
reflects the United Nations principles and the human-rights based
approach and commitment to equality and non-discrimination which
underpin delivery of the United Nations mandate. It is an
affirmation that good governance is both an enabler and a powerful
impetus for sustainable development.

It is in this spirit of shared convictions that, over the past
decade, the United Nations country team in Kenya has partnered with
the Government and the people of Kenya to support implementation of
the Constitution and to advance transformative governance,
sustainable development and human rights for all. Adopting a whole
of society approach, the United Nations has worked with national
and county governments, independent institutions, civil society,
community-based organisations, communities, private sector and
humanitarian and development partners in pursuit of achieving the
Sustainable Development Goals in Kenya.

Devolved government – a key innovation of the Constitution –
has been an important aspect of cooperation. The devolved system of
governance brings the exercise of Government functions closer to
the people, to improve delivery of services and enhance public
participation. By establishing 47 county governments and devolving
functions such as pre-primary education, health, water and
sanitation, agriculture, cultural activities and environment
protection, the Constitution underlines counties’ responsibility
to lead on social and economic development processes for their
populations. County governments spend 41 per cent of their
resources on social services. This has contributed to the
improvement in the following indicators over the first five years
of devolution (2013-2018): the percentage of births attended by
skilled health personnel increased from 62% to 70%; the proportion
of children engaged in child labour dropped from 34% to 13%; and
the net enrolment for early childhood development and education
increased by over 10%. 1 The prevalence of chronic
malnutrition in children reduced to 26% in 2014, from 35% in

To continue these development gains, it is essential to ensure
adequate allocation of resources to social sectors, and for
counties to have increased capacity for evidence-based planning,
budgeting and efficient public spending in social sectors most
relevant to populations in need. The United Nations is supporting
the devolution process by helping counties to build institutional,
policy and legislative frameworks for development, including
gender-responsive budgeting and gender mainstreaming, improved
service delivery based on results-based management principles,
inclusive participation and human rights-based approaches.

The country has weathered various storms in implementing the New
Constitution, but a number of successes have been recorded. A case
in point is the constitutional remedy for the low participation of
women in politics and decision-making, with the ‘two thirds
gender rule’ brought in to ensure that no more than two thirds of
the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.
There have been some notable improvements over the past ten years,
but heightened efforts will be needed to fully realise the

During the 2017 elections, there was a 7.7% increase in the
number of women elected, but they still comprised only 9.2% of
those elected to County Assemblies, the Senate and Parliament.
Women currently account for 23% of Members of Parliament, including
women representatives. 2

Gender equality needs to be driven at national and county
levels, through the implementation of laws and policies
guaranteeing women’s political rights, and facilitating their
effective participation and representation in development planning.
County Integrated Development Plans provide an opportunity to put
in place a framework for equality and inclusion, to effectively
address inequalities and close the gender gap.

As we enter a new decade of constitutional implementation, the
United Nations family in Kenya remains committed to continuing
efforts in partnership with the Government and the people of Kenya.
The next decade coincides with the timeframe for the Sustainable
Development Goals and the Kenya Vision 2030. To realise these
goals, it is imperative to harness the potential of all – in
particular, women, youth, persons with disabilities, minorities and
marginalised groups – as envisaged by the Constitution.

Public participation and inclusion will strengthen the central
role of the people in the implementation of the Constitution and
driving forward sustainable development, transformative governance
and the promotion and protection of human rights in Kenya.

In turn, this will accelerate efforts to address inequalities
and ensure that the development agenda leaves no one behind.

1 Kenya Voluntary National Report 2020 on
progress against Sustainable Development Goals.
2 NDI,
A Gender Analysis of the 2017 Kenya General Elections

The leadership of the United Nations Country Team in


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Katiba at 10: A Landmark Constitution and a Blueprint for Deepening
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Katiba at 10: A Landmark Constitution and a Blueprint for
Deepening Democracy