All in all, let us put it into perspective, or rather examine it from a legal eye. Socio- economic rights are deponed by virtue of Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya.[1] Sibonile Khoza of South Africa describes them as human entitlements that warrant a dignified life.[2] These include the right to food, housing, clean water, the highest attainable standard of health care, social security, education, among others. It is true to affirm that these basic necessities can now only be equated to mere luxuries in life. How many citizens survive on just a single meal a day? How many people don’t have a roof to sleep under? Visit any town in the country at around 5 am and the number of people living in the streets will shock you.

So as to be clear, it is the role of the state as was emphasized in the Matthew Okwanda case of 2012,[3] where the court held that it was the role of the state to ensure progressive actualisation of socio-economic rights. That begs the question, what is our current government doing to ensure the progressive actualisation of these rights? In the words of our President, William Samoei Ruto the 5th, what is the plan? Will it all really make sense in a year? Will the gruesomely draconian taxes like the Digital Services Tax just disappear all of a sudden?

While we appreciate the efforts made by President William’s administration like the very promising Budget Policy Statement 2023, released by Cabinet Secretary National Treasury and Economic Planning, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, the truth of the matter is that the effected changes, if any, are not being felt by Wanjiru. This outrightly leads to a question of legitimacy of the government by the citizens. They made promises to the electorate that they are yet to keep, at least that is how it appears to the citizens.

Applying the Hohfeldian Matrix as advanced by Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, every right has a correlative duty. In this case, the state is the duty bearer. It is its role to avail resources to ensure progressive actualisation of socio – economic rights. It thus follows that Socio – economic rights are dependent on adequate resource allocation from the Public Finance System. This is exactly where the rain starts beating us. Our financial sectors are evaded by a wanting catastrophe of gross mismanagement and embezzling of public finances.

The direct impact of this is that it leads to limited resource provision as funds that could be used to furnish other sectors for instance education, end up being misappropriated by a few individuals. Take a look at the CBC roll out for instance, the process has been everything but successful. Parents, teachers and students alike are wallowing in quagmire over the hefty share of challenges it has brought with it. Did we have to do it in haste? Had we managed our finances appropriately, we would have enough financial resource to avail equitable resources to students all over the country.   Cannot stress more the essence of education, ‘’The most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. ‘’[4]

Another key example revolves around subsidies and tax exemptions. When public finances are mismanaged, they lead to waiving of input subsidies so as to cater for the missing misappropriated funds. This was evident in the fuel sector early this year.

To mitigate the already alarming situation, the government takes to draconian measures such as withdrawing tax exemptions and instilling absurd taxes. Did you know that you pay taxes for accessing online digital platforms? Digital Services Tax. This in turn leads to inflation which then leads to high standards of living. As a result, it is almost impossible for Wanjiku to put food on the table.

We are living in an era where we won’t just sit pretty and watch as things unfold. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 affirms the concept of the supremacy of the people. In the same light, we demand for socio- economic justice. That is why Citizens of Kenya and South Africa took to the streets to champion for their constitutional entitlements. While the South African protest was one to reckon with, its Kenyan equivalent was a far cry. Perhaps as a result of poor planning, I know less. All in all, mbiu ya mgambo imelia na ikilia kuna jambo.

The government needs to question its methods. Is it really the time to introduce Privatisation Amendments bills or one to reform policy around housing? Is it time to be ostentatious and allow extravagant spending by government officials or one to plan on how to solve drought and the food disaster in the hunger-stricken counties? I think the message to our government would be simply, ‘Don’t sleep, wake up!!!’

It is time we made the reform agenda work. It is time we prioritized the needs of the citizens over political endeavours. I am not saying that nothing is being done, all I’m saying is, we can’t feel the impact. More needs to be done. We need to pull up our socks.

The best way to make it work is if we work together. If we focus on domestic resource mobilisation as opposed to relying on imports, that will be one step in the right direction. If EACC, does its work to ensure that audits are conducted in public offices effectively and that no money is misappropriated, if the Judiciary passes structural interdicts to ensure actualisation of socio-economic rights, and if the parliament were to play its role in checks and balances effectively, then all would be well. If we work as a nation to inculcate a culture of integrity, then we will have integral future leaders. We are battling these demons, it is our business to ensure that our children don’t fight the same battles. Yes, we can. Together, we can. We can ensure high standards of living for all Kenyans under effective governance. Tutatimiza ndoto!


[1] Art 43 Constitution of Kenya 2010. Available at: http://www.kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/Constitution_of_Kenya__2010.pdf (Accessed: March 22, 2023).

[2] Socio-economic rights in South Africa : A resource book, by Sibonile Khoza… . Available at: https://journals.co.za/doi/10.10520/AJA1684260X_325 (Accessed: March 22, 2023).

[3] Matthew Okwanda v Ministry of Health and 3 others, 2012 eKLR.

[4] Education: The most powerful weapon for changing the world: USAID impact (no date) USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners. Available at: https://blog.usaid.gov/2013/04/education-the-most-powerful-weapon/ (Accessed: March 23, 2023).

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Lennox Kirianki is a third year student of law at the University of Nairobi. He is a prolific writer with a keen eye on emerging legal trends and legal issues. He has widely explored the dispute resolution corner. His major areas of Interest are International law, land law, tax law, cyber and data security, business law, fiscal law, sexual and reproductive rights and constitutional matters.