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An insight into the year ahead

The year 2022 has been a challenging year for Kenyans. The year was characterized by run-away inflation, a bitterly contested Presidential election and a Supreme Court decision that raised considerable legal argumentation questions and emotions thereafter. Kenya also faces the weight of an unhealthy debt burden that bodes ill for the country’s future. The country’s traditional and original sins; negative tribalism and corruption continue to bare their fangs in every aspect of our public life. To compound issues further, the judiciary, long considered as a fairly dependable bulwark of constitutionalism, freedom and the rule of law has of late been showing worrying signs, with a rising tide of public sentiments slowly and steadily displaying waning confidence in an institution that has enjoyed a modicum of public support and respect.

It is expected that the year ahead may perhaps mark a change in fortunes. Kenyans will expect the Executive to act decisively so as to alleviate the pains associated with the rising costs of living. The Executive will also be expected to deal with the increased instances of insecurity that have been on the rise of late. And while dealing with law enforcement matters, the Executive must be reminded that the Constitution demands that law enforcement be undertaken in accordance with the demands of the Constitution. The newly appointed Inspector General of Police is on record as having made some thinly veiled shoot to kill orders to his officers. The impugned orders were heavily criticized, drawing criticisms from amongst others the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (I.P.O.A). The Inspector General and indeed all security officers must be reminded that all authority draws from the Constitution and that each and every one of them shall be held to account for the manner they use authority entrusted to them.

Parliament is expected to deal with a number of legislative and oversight concerns in the coming year, including public concerns against Genetically Modified Organism (G.M.O.) crops whose importation Cabinet recently authorized.  Parliament will be expected to rise above partisan lines and to ensure that the erosion of the normative limits in constitutionalism that has been characteristic of recent parliaments is nipped in the bud. Parliamentarians are expected to be sensitive to the plight of the public by focusing on pressing issues like inflation, drought and the debt burden which need urgent tackling. The cantankerous partisanship and narrowmindedness that has led to the dross quality of parliamentary output in recent years needs not to be repeated. There is need for the current parliament to stir a departure from the long harboured but unarticulated feeling best captured in a quote attributed to Scottish poet and novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘We know what parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it’.

As for the Judiciary, it should not be forgotten that its lifeline relies on public support. The need to maintain public support cannot be emphasized enough. Judicial functions must be conducted transparently, honestly and above all else, in a just manner. The judiciary has diverse functions and perhaps the most important of the judicial roles is to be the ‘constitutional watchdog’ within our scheme of constitutionalism which has one of its remarkable features as an entrenched Bill of Rights. The Judiciary must not drop the ball when it comes to protecting constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Globally, Kenya needs to re-find its footing. It needs to claim its sheen; goodwill lost after years of national atrophy. Our diplomatic muscle has become flaccid. Kenya is no longer the regional leader in peace and conflict resolution, playing second fiddle to other states in the region. Perhaps with the appointment of Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta to lead the Ethiopian peace effort as well as to mediated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya will attempt to regain her leadership in a world of increasing economic, political, and cultural interdependence. Kenya needs to find a solution for the squabbles that have characterized the implementation of the East Africa Community common market protocol so as to ensure benefit for her citizens within the regional framework. Kenya needs to ensure the benefits of regional cooperation are felt by Kenyans who are reeling from the tectonic shocks of a global economic downturn as well as from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a nutshell, there is need for national revival. The country needs to be rejuvenated after a long political campaign period characterized by dirty politics and visionless politicians. The promises given by the current administration must be achieved so as to meaningfully transform the lives of ordinary Kenyans. In improving the lives of Kenyans, the current administration must remember a truism: The Constitution of Kenya 2010 was heralded as the foundation for a new legal order in Kenya. The Constitution must therefore be nurtured and allowed to grow Kenya into a healthy, vibrant and stable democracy, where citizens live freely in decency and in dignity.  Only by respecting and upholding the Constitution can Kenya be taken out of the quagmire it is currently bogged in, as a means of national revival.

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The Platform for Law, Justice & Society is published by Gitobu Imanyara & Co every month principally to offer a platform for informed and critical discussion of the National Values and Principles set out in Articles 10 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya.

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