Exactly one year ago today, Kenyans welcomed the promulgation of a new Constitution, with huge individual and national expectations.
And the journey since August 27, 2010 has been bumpy but with landmark reforms. (Read: The gains and pains in effecting new reforms)
Unprecedented public recruitment of top government officers, reduction of Presidential powers, enhanced rights of people in remand, more women in key positions and an assertive public are some of the highlights marking the one year of the Constitution.
On Friday, Parliament held extra-ordinary sessions in the morning and afternoon in a rush to beat the one year deadline for the enactment of dozens of laws related to the constitution.
At State House Nairobi, President Kibaki witnessed the swearing in of Supreme Court judges, one of the highlights of sweeping reforms in the judiciary.
The Supreme Court will be the highest court in the land with the exclusive mandate of resolving election disputes. It will be chaired by the Chief Justice and its rulings will be final and not subject to appeals.
One year down the road, Kenyans have witnessed sweeping changes in the judiciary and the executive, including the open, transparent and competitive recruitment of the Chief Justice, the deputy CJ and the judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts and the new Director of Public Prosecutions.
The hiring of appointees to new offices and commissions created under the constitution like the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the Controller of Budget, Auditor-General and the Attorney-General’s office have also been conducted through a similar process.
Parliament spent yesterday afternoon debating the new Elections law which contains drastic measures aimed at reforming the way general elections and referenda are conducted in the country with a view to ensuring that future polls are free and fair.
The new constitutional order was also captured by MPs who broke Parliament’s long held tradition of sitting on Tuesday’s Wednesdays and Thursdays only and held extraordinary sessions Friday to pass bills which are required to be in place within the first one year of the new constitution.
The cabinet also broke its own traditions by holding more than one session in a week, including a special sitting last Saturday to approve the bills which required to be passed within the first year of the new constitution being promulgated.
In statements to mark one year since the new constitution was promulgated, President Kibaki, Chief Mediator Kofi Annan and the US Government hailed Kenyans for embracing the new constitutional order and urged them to jealously protect the gains brought by the new constitution.
“The National Charter has ushered in unprecedented change in our society within a very short span of time. It has given Kenya a facelift. For me the new Covenant is a guarantee that the Kenyan people shall henceforth resolve any potential conflict through the rule of law,” the President said in a speech broadcast on TV last evening .
Mr Annan singled out the transparent manner through which the new Chief Justice and top judges were appointed as the hallmark of the new constitutional order.
“The transparency with which the appointment of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice was made has set a valuable precedent by which future appointments to key positions in Government will be judged. Transparency in appointments not only instills confidence in key government institutions and enables important reforms to be undertaken, but also enhances the integrity of good governance,” he stated.
President Kibaki singled out the Bill of Rights in the new constitution as being one of the best in the world.
“The county governments will potentially percolate investment and general development to the grassroots,” he noted while also singling out the entrenchment of the doctrine of the separation of powers in the new constitution.
“Land and other national resources will be protected more efficaciously. Leadership will be squarely brought under constitutional spotlight. Kenyans can be citizens of the world. A new senate will supplement the current national assembly. The executive will be outside of Parliament. Cabinet and Principal Secretaries will be professionals who give all their working time to government departments,” he went on.
He also highlighted the fact that future presidents will have to be chosen by the majority of Kenyans while national security organs such as the Defence Forces of Kenya and the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) will be subjected to civilian oversight.
Saturday also marks the last day in office for Attorney General Amos Wako after 21 years as the principal legal advisor to the government and head of the state law office.
Mr Wako’s departure, alongside former Chief justice Evan Gicheru are products of the new constitution at twelve and six months respectively from the promulgation date.
Another product of the new constitution is the supremacy of the Kenyan people and Parliament over the executive.
President Kibaki had a taste of the new found supremacy of the masses and Parliament in February this year when he was forced to withdraw the nominees to the offices of the CJ, AG, DPP and the Controller of Budget.
Parliament flatly refused to consider the names and directed that the president follows the law as set out in the new constitution by consulting and concurring with the Prime Minister.
As a result, the president, in consultation with the PM, was forced to advertise the jobs, resulting in the appointment of new CJ Willy Mutunga and his deputy Nancy Barasa.
Added the President: “The Interim Independent Boundaries Commission was retired by the Constitution. We are in the process of recruiting members of the Independent Electoral ad Boundaries Commission. This is the Commission on whose shoulders the responsibility of managing the 2012 general elections will fall.” the president said.
He also said that the vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board which will vet all judges and magistrates to ensure they are suitable for their jobs has been nominated and is awaiting final approval by the National Assembly.
“This Board will bear monumental responsibility because it must professionally and fairly vet all serving judges and magistrates,” he noted..