The New Kenyan Constitution of 2010

Kenya’s new constitution was enacted on 27th August 2010 replacing the old one that had been in place since Kenya’s Independence in 1963. The promulgation of this new constitution marked the end of one of the longest journeys in Kenyan history; a two-decade struggle for reforms. Over 67% of Kenyan voters approved this new constitution in a referendum that paved way for a historic and spectacular moment in Kenya’s democracy.

The Kenya Constitution is the supreme law of Kenya. It establishes the structure of the Kenyan government, and also defines the relationship between the government and the citizens of Kenya.

Composition of the Kenya Constitution

The new constitution of Kenya comprises of a preamble, 18 chapters, and six schedules. The preamble affirms the acceptance by all Kenyans to adopt the constitution for themselves and for all future generations. Among other functions, the six schedules describe the national symbols of Kenya and also prescribe the oaths of office for holders of different constitutional offices.

The Kenyan Constitution is comprised of the following 18 Chapters:

The first chapter - the Sovereignty of the Kenyan People - All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya, and is only exercised in accordance with the constitution. Chapter One of the constitution states as much, and also installs the constitution as the supreme law of Kenya.

The second chapter - recognises that Kenya is a sovereign republic and a multi-party democratic state. The chapter also establishes the two levels of Kenya's devolved government: the national government and the county governments. As per this chapter, Kiswahili is the national language of Kenya, while both English and Kiswahili are the official languages of Kenya.

You can read specific details of each chapter by downloading a copy of the new Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Kenya Citizenship

Chapter three of the Kenya constitution allows for dual citizenship. A Kenyan citizen can therefore acquire citizenship of another country, and any person can acquire Kenyan citizenship if they meet the requirements of this chapter.

The Bill of Rights

The fourth chapter is regarded as one of the most progressive provisions of the Kenyan constitution. It guarantees fundamental rights including the freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and belief, the right to equal opportunities for men and women, freedom of the media, the rights of arrested persons, and the right of an accused person to get a fair trial.

Structure of the Kenya Government

Chapters eight, nine, ten, and eleven establish the structure of the Kenyan government. The government of Kenya consists of The Legislature, The Executive, The Judiciary, and The Devolved Governments.

The Legislature (Parliament)

Kenya's parliament consists of two-houses: the National Assembly and the Senate.

The National Assembly controls national expenditure and revenue allocation between the two levels of government. The National Assembly also reviews the conduct of the President and other state officers, and initiates the process of removing them from office if necessary.

Senate on the other hand serves the interests of counties and the county governments by debating and approving bills concerning the counties. The senate also determines the outcome of any resolution of the National Assembly to impeach the President or the Deputy President.

The Executive

The President, the Deputy President, and the cabinet constitute the executive arm of the Kenyan government. The President is the Head of State and Government, Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, and the chairperson of the National Security Council.

The President is elected directly by all registered voters for a five year term. For a person to be declared winner of the presidential vote, they must receive at least 50% of the total votes cast, plus at least 25% of the votes cast in more than half of the counties. One can only serve as president for a maximum of two terms.

The Deputy President is the President's principal assistant. During the presidential election, each presidential candidate nominates a running mate. Upon election, this running mate becomes the Deputy President.

The cabinet comprises of the President, the Deputy President, the Attorney General, and 14 to 22 cabinet secretaries. The President appoints the cabinet secretaries, but the appointments must be approved by the National Assembly.

The Judiciary

The constitution creates an independent judiciary consisting of the courts of law and tribunals. The Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary, and is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission. This is subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

Under the Kenya constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest court in Kenya. The Chief Justice is the President of the Supreme Court. This court also comprises the Deputy Chief Justice and five other judges. The Supreme Court is the only court that can hear and determine any case challenging the election of the President. The court also attends to appeals from the Court of Appeal, the High Court and other courts and tribunals.

The Court of Appeal is the second highest court in Kenya. It comprises of at least 12 judges and is headed by a President of the Court of Appeal. The court only has appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the High Court and other courts and tribunals.

The third highest court in Kenya is the High Court. The High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in criminal and civil matters. The court also has supervisory powers over the subordinate courts.

The constitution mandates Parliament to establish special courts to determine disputes related to employment and labour relations, land and environmental matters. These special courts have equal status with the High Court. The High Court does not have any jurisdiction over matters handled exclusively by these special courts.

The Magistrates courts, Kadhis' courts and the Courts Martial are the only subordinate courts established in the constitution of Kenya. Parliament will create legislation on how these subordinate courts will function. The constitution empowers parliament to establish other subordinate courts and tribunals as necessary.

Kadhis' courts only determine cases related to personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance for people who profess the Muslim religion and who voluntarily submit to the jurisdiction authority of the Kadhis' courts.

The Devolved Governments

The Kenya constitution establishes 47 counties, each with its own government. County governments consist of a county assembly and a county executive. The county assembly is made up of members elected from different wards in the county.

The county governor is the head of the county executive. Voters in each county elect their governor and deputy governor directly. The governor then appoints other members of the county executive committee, with the approval of the county assembly.

County governments are in charge of agriculture, health services, public amenities, county trade development and regulations, county planning and development among other services that they're mandated to provide to the residents of that county.

Some of the provisions of the new constitution of Kenya are still in the process being effected after Kenya conducted its first general elections in March 2013 under the new constitution. Parliament is supposed to enact legislation within five years to support its full implementation.

You can download the .pdf and read specific details of the Kenya Constitution 2010.

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