Analysis: Kenya constitution to take time

Aug 6th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

The passage of Kenya’s new constitution ends a decades-long struggle to cut down the massive powers of the presidency, although it now will take up to five years to implement all the changes approved in this week’s referendum.

New institutions such as a Supreme Court and a Senate must now be formed. The country’s judiciary is to face a vetting process aimed at ridding it of corrupt or incompetent judges. And Parliament will have to pass 49 new laws under a timetable.

“Kenyans can’t just sit back and relax. We have to pay attention now to the criteria and process of appointing people to the commission that is responsible for implementation. That is going to be the first big political battle in terms of interests,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, the executive director of the independent Kenya Human Rights Commission.

Kenya was in a similar place eight years ago. At the time, Mwai Kibaki won a landslide presidential victory that ended the 39-year rule of the country’s independence party. His massive mandate raised expectations that his administration would reverse low economic growth, poor government services and endemic corruption.

Kenyans in 2002 were full of enthusiasm and expectations, and Kibaki was seen as the man to deliver on the promise of a new beginning, said policy analyst Mutuma Ruteere.

Fees were abolished for government-run primary schools, and enlistment soared. Half the country’s judges were fired after investigations into corruption, restoring faith in what was a discredited institution. State-owned companies started running more efficiently, expanding and declaring profits.

But during Kibaki’s second year as president, in 2004, his administration became implicated in a multimillion-dollar security contracts scandal. Disillusionment set in. As Kibaki dithered on taking action against Cabinet ministers implicated in the scandal, public support for his administration fell. For this and other reasons, when Kibaki sought re-election in 2007 he was no longer the shoo-in he had been five years earlier.

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