It’s now time to enjoy your rights

Saturday August 28 2010

File | NATION Women and children from the Turkana community walk home, to their Manyattas at Nadapal on the Lokichogio-Nadapal-Sudan road after receiving their relief food ration distribute by Oxfarm organisation at Lokichogio, Turkana West District. Every Kenyan now has the right to adequate supply of food under the new Constitution.

File | NATION Women and children from the Turkana community walk home, to their Manyattas at Nadapal on the Lokichogio-Nadapal-Sudan road after receiving their relief food ration distribute by Oxfarm organisation at Lokichogio, Turkana West District. Every Kenyan now has the right to adequate supply of food under the new Constitution. 

By OLIVER MATHENGE [email protected]

As the country enters the new era following the promulgation of the new Constitution last Friday, focus now turns to the enormous task of implementing it.

Some of the provisions of the new law came into effect immediately with the repeal of the old constitution.

However, some of the existing structures will remain until 49 new pieces of legislation are put in place and existing ones amended within the next five years.

Kenya is now divided into 47 counties after the eight provinces were abolished by the new Constitution. The counties came into effect immediately though the devolved governments based on them will wait until the laws governing them are put in place.

Those in the diaspora who had abandoned their citizenship for foreign ones regained their status as the Bill of Rights now grants every Kenyan the right to dual citizenship.

Kiswahili was elevated into an official language in addition to its status as a national language. Previously only English has been considered as the official language.

Kenyans will enjoy lesser national days, which will be observed as holidays.

There will only be three national days – Madaraka Day (June 1 ), Mashujaa Day (October 20) – formerly Kenyatta Day – and Jamhuri Day (December 12). This means that Moi Day (October 10) and Labour Day (May 1) are no longer constitutionally recognised as national days.

Children born to a Kenyan citizen – either mother or father – outside the country are recognised by the constitution as citizens. This also applies to those who may have been born outside the country before August 27 even if their parents had dumped their Kenyan citizenship.

The new document contains Kenya’s first-ever Bill of Rights, which states that every Kenyan has the right to such basics as clean water, decent housing, sanitation, and an adequate supply and quality of food.

The Bill of Rights is expected, in the long run, to ensure a better life for the almost 50 per cent of Kenyans living below the poverty line.

Every Kenyan child has the right to compulsory and free basic education, healthcare, shelter and nutrition. The right of the youth to access employment and the necessary training is also entrenched in the Constitution.

The State as well as relatives are obliged by the new law to take care of the older persons in the society.

From today, the police cannot arbitrarily arrest someone or search private property. They are now required to explain to the arrested person, in a language that they understand, why they need to arrest them and their right to remain silent.

One can also sue the state for holding you in custody for more than 24 hours or if they are held in a prison where there are persons serving a sentence.

The police are also supposed to allow the arrested person to get in touch with an advocate or the person they think may be of assistance.

If an offence is punishable by a fine or an imprisonment of less than six months, the Constitution says that the arrested person cannot be held in custody.

The Constitution gives Kenyans the right to access information held by the State or any other person which they think they need.

They also have a right to have information on them corrected immediately.

From Friday, every Kenyan including MPs who have fought taxation of their salaries, will be required to pay tax.

Foreigners holding land leases stretching to 999 years have been reduced to 99 years.

Kenyans can expect gradual change in the country, especially in governance over the next couple of years.

The new Constitution alters the current governance structure by introducing the county government and trimming the powers of the President.

Kenyans will go for a single election to pick their president and their representatives at the county and national assemblies on the second Tuesday of August of the election year.

However, for the first election in 2012, it will be done 60 days after the dissolution of the current Parliament.

A president will be elected by all voters and will need 50 per cent plus one of all votes cast and at least 25 per cent of the votes in half of the counties. The new Cabinet will have 14 to 22 secretaries (that’s the new name for ministers), assisted by principal secretaries.

The position of assistant minister will be scrapped. Currently, there are 40 ministers and 54 assistant ministers.

The president will no longer be able to pick top officials at will. All senior appointments must be approved by Parliament.

In the Judiciary, only the Chief Justice and deputy will require Parliament’s approval. The Judicial Service Commission will nominate candidates to serve as judges, who will be appointed by the president.