Thursday, August 05, 2010

New Constitution Gives Kenyans Bill of Rights

"YES IT IS" was the giant headline in one of Kenya's leading newspapers today, The Standard, as a vote on the proposed new constitution passed with an overwhelming majority. Voting was peaceful across the country, though tense with memories of 2007's highly disputed election, which set off ethnically fueled clashes across the country that left more than 1,000 people dead. To prevent any sort of repeat of 2007's events, the Kenyan government overhauled the entire election process - from the registration, to the lines at polling places, to how the results would be transmitted and tallied. Thousands of police officers were sent to keep order in rural areas.

Once implemented, the new constitution will remove power from a powerful presidency and create a decentralized political system. It will also create a Bill of Rights, allows dual citizenship for Kenyans and allows for land reform - all giving more rights to citizens. The new constitution is expected to be a crucial turning point in this country’s postcolonial history by finally addressing many of the political issues that have dogged this East African powerhouse since independence in 1963.

- Clara Hill