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  • Irungu Houghton

How did Kenya measure up against the Constitution in 2022?

Updated: Jan 4


As the sun set for the last time on 2022, 56 million Kenyans, 47 + 1 governments received their report card. How did the 59-year-old student Kenya perform against the standards contained in the Kenyan constitution?


Despite a decade of laws, policies and experiences at national and county levels, student Kenya’s interest and confidence in public participation is waning. 4.5 million students called in sick rather than register to vote during the 2022 General Elections. A further 8 million played truant, skipped the most important civics class of all and left 233,000 voters to choose the fifth Presidency.


More encouraging, this election was one of the most non-violent. High levels of police professionalism, courageous action by independent offices, constitutional commissions and civic organisations, and mass media oversight disabled several conflict triggers throughout the year.


Nevertheless, over 100 people were unlawfully killed by police officers and 37 bodies were recovered from the Yala river. Inevitably, extrajudicial killings attracted international condemnation as foreign nationals experienced what Kenyans feared. Disbanding the 80-strong SSU, arresting 9 SSU officers, former Pangani OCS Samir Yunus and Corporal Ahmed Rashid as well as the convictions of officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjohi, and Peter Ngugi offer a glimmer of a police service that investigates rather than executes suspects.


Kenyans working abroad in the Gulf states remained at risk with hundreds experiencing violence, rape, abuse, confiscation of passports and withholding of wages by their employers. The Foreign Affairs leadership with human rights organisations and other affected nations across the global south must urgently address this in future.


Despite this, Kenya remained a sanctuary nation for over 500,000 asylum seekers. Grossly underfunded by a failing international humanitarian system, the Interior Ministry can be congratulated firstly, for protecting African neighbours from conflicts across Ethiopia and the Great Lakes and secondly, for recognising over 7,000 stateless Pemba descendants as Kenyan citizens. To further establish Kenya’s credentials as a world leader, we must fully implement the Refugees Act (2021) and strengthen protection services for all and particularly, LGBTIQ refugees.


In the most shocking ministerial statement of the year, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria reminded us, all Kenyans are candidates for death under his government. With thousands facing starvation, disease, bankruptcy, and homelessness, we must prepare to respond should his ministry attempt to further collapse domestic food production and external markets by opening the door to genetically modified food imports or foreign seed companies.


Electing 7 women governors, 3 senators, 26 MPs and 100 MCAs took us a few steps towards gender parity. However, freedom from gender-based violence, economic exclusion and social prejudice requires new strategies. The nation’s women and girls are badly in need of new policies and laws that give women and girls a fighting chance against sexual health ignorance, teenage pregnancies, and unsafe abortions.


Kenyans gave the Kenya Kwanza a C grade in this week’s Infotrak poll. The barely 100-day old government scored highest in its foreign diplomacy efforts, the Sh 50 billion Hustler Fund, funding for county governments and the judiciary and least, in terms of reducing living costs for millions.


The year closes with no significant action towards eliminating corruption. Several corruption cases have been withdrawn against Presidential allies. Rather than appoint individuals with records of expanding opportunities for millions, the Presidency has appointed individuals repeatedly cited by legislative, criminal and oversight agencies for abuse of office. Both the Presidency’s critics and supporters must red card these appointments.


As we review the Competency Based Curriculum, let’s also review the nation as a place of critical learning. Our schools cannot produce ethical, empowered, and engaged students, if the broader environment is generating corrupt, cynical, and captured citizens. This world will eat all our students for breakfast.


Next year, Kenya commemorates 60 years of freedom from colonial rule. Whether it will be a celebration, or an empty ritualistic ceremony depends as always, on whether we exercise Article 3.1 and realise our constitution.


Happy activist new year all.


This opinion was published in the weekly Saturday Standard column 31 December 2022 #StandardSettingKE It is a preliminary assessment ahead of the Amnesty International International global report to be released in April 2023.


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