Thursday, August 26, 2010



Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 26, 2010

Will it be illegal for motorists to jump traffic lights and pedestrians to ignore red lights and cross our streets? Will it be illegal for matatus and city buses to block, harass and terrorize other motorists in our urban centers and national highways? Will the constitution punish those matatus, buses and trailers that have caused the deaths of many Kenyans due to over-speeding and recklessness? What about those drivers and passengers that ply our roads without their seat belts on; or drive at breakneck speeds on slippery and wet roads on wheels as smooth as out bald heads?

Kenyans have varied expectations of the new law that are as diverse as its many chapters and clauses.

For some, especially the petty offenders such as changaa drinkers, touts and matatu drivers and other traffic offenders, the bliss belongs in the Bill of Rights where they will no longer expect arbitrary harassment and arrests from the Police Officer or Chief. Street hawkers and street urchins will also be shielded from the police. Their rights are firmly protected in the constitution.

Effective midnight of July 27, Press Freedom will not only be guaranteed but absolute. Freedom to access information from any government official including confidential files over landmark cases, reports of commissions of inquiry, the Hansard records in Parliament going back one hundred years will be available to any member of the public that will care to access them.

The Bill of Rights will guarantee every Kenyan food on the table, shelter, medical attention and free and compulsory primary education.

Following the promulgation, there will be real and meaningful separation of powers between the three arms of the State. Members of Parliament will no longer serve in the Cabinet as has been the case in the last 47 years while the Judiciary will for the first time enjoy true independence from the Executive. Whereas the President will still have the powers to appoint constitutional office holders such as judges, permanent secretaries, cabinet ministers and heads of state corporations, the military and armed personnel heads, he will not have powers to choose them. Their vetting will be the prerogative of Parliament.

In the past, the President had the powers to prorogue Parliament at will. In the new dispensation, Parliament will have its own fixed calendar controlled by the Speaker through the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Unlike in the past when the Parliamentary Service Commission was a law unto itself in determining its own salaries and benefits, that power has now been removed from the august house and given to another independent commission that will determine the packages of all sectors of the public service.

For the first time, there will be no DCs, PCs and Dos. The Provincial administration is an endangered lot since the 47 counties will become the new centers of power immediately the new constitution is promulgated. Instead we will have governors and local representatives to the County Assemblies come 2012.

In Parliament, the supremacy of the National Assembly will also suffer loss of power as another chamber; the Senate will claim some powers from it including that of impeaching the President. More importantly, since senators will have larger representation than MPs, they definitely will wield more clout than MPs.

Kenyans in urban centers will for the first time elect their own mayors directly as opposed to the previous system where mayors and county council chairmen were voted in by their councilors in a most undemocratic manner.

Land distribution and allocation in urban or county councils will no longer be handled by councilors, mayors and council chairman. A separate land commission has been set up to deal with that explosive issue.

In the past, our MPs have been everything to everybody. They have been our representatives in Parliament, CDF chairmen, cabinet ministers and officials of our political parties. Being an MP and a cabinet minister has nurtured the culture of believing that if one is appointed into the cabinet, it is like a reward to that constituency. In the end, Kenyans have stopped seeing the President, Prime Minister, Vice President and other national office holders as national leaders but rather as regional and provincial chiefs. The ministerial flag has been seen as the communal gateway to the resources of the nation.

For the first time, women will enjoy greater rights and representation in all aspects of public service. Their numbers will substantially increase in the national assembly while they will match their male counterparts one for one in the Senate. In state corporations and national commissions, where the CEO or chairman is a man, the deputy will be a woman and vice versa.

When the current Attorney General departs in the next 12 months or less, his successor will not have unlimited term as has been the case. The occupant of that office will serve a maximum of 10 years, more or less the same two terms as the appointing authority.

Whereas the entire Police Force will be under one commander to be known as the Inspector General, criminals will not be allowed to hold public offices as is the case now where some members of the cabinet have criminal cases pending in court yet due to political expediency, the appointing authority cannot fire them.

Finally the new law will force all constitutional office holders such as judges and MPs to pay their taxes in full. And for MPs, it will be a hard task completing five years in the august house. Their constituents will be watching their performance and will be entitled to recall them in case the need arises.