How Kenya measured up this year against the Constitution

As the sun sets for the last time this year, 56 million Kenyans, 47 + 1 governments just received their 2022 report card. How did the 59-year-old student Kenya perform against the standards contained in the Kenyan Constitution this year?

Despite a decade of laws, policies and experiences at national and county levels, student Kenya’s interest and confidence in public participation is waning. 4.5 million students called in sick rather than register to vote during the 2022 General Elections. A further 8 million played truant, skipped the most important civics class of all and left 233,000 voters to choose the fifth Presidency.

More encouraging, this election was one of the most non-violent. High levels of police professionalism, courageous action by independent offices, constitutional commissions and civic organisations, and mass media oversight disabled several conflict triggers throughout the year.

Nevertheless, over 100 people were unlawfully killed by police officers and 37 bodies were recovered from the Yala river. Inevitably, extrajudicial killings attracted international condemnation as foreign nationals experienced what Kenyans feared. Disbanding the 80-strong SSU, arresting nine SSU officers, former Pangani OCS Samir Yunus and Corporal Ahmed Rashid as well as the convictions of officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjohi, and Peter Ngugi offer a glimmer of a police service that investigates rather than executes suspects.

Kenyans working abroad in the Gulf states remained at risk with hundreds experiencing violence, rape, abuse, confiscation of passports and withholding of wages by their employers. The Foreign Affairs leadership with human rights organisations and other affected nations across the global south must urgently address this in future.

Despite this, Kenya remained a sanctuary nation for over 500,000 asylum seekers. Grossly underfunded by a failing international humanitarian system, the Interior Ministry can be congratulated firstly, for protecting African neighbours from conflicts across Ethiopia and the Great Lakes and secondly, for recognising over 7,000 stateless Pemba descendants as citizens. To further establish Kenya’s credentials as a world leader, we must fully implement the Refugees Act (2021) and strengthen protection services for all and particularly, LGBTIQ refugees.

In the most shocking ministerial statement of the year, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria reminded us, all Kenyans are candidates for death under his government. With thousands facing starvation, disease, bankruptcy, and homelessness, we must prepare to respond should his ministry attempt to further collapse domestic food production and external markets by opening the door to genetically modified food imports or foreign seed companies.

Electing seven women governors, three senators, 26 MPs and 100 MCAs took us a few steps towards gender parity. However, freedom from gender-based violence, economic exclusion and social prejudice requires new strategies.

Kenyans gave the Kenya Kwanza a C grade in this week’s Infotrak poll. The barely 100-day old government scored highest in its foreign diplomacy efforts, the Sh50b Hustler Fund, funding for county governments and the judiciary and least, in terms of reducing cost of living costs.

The year closes with no significant action towards eliminating corruption. Several corruption cases have been withdrawn against Presidential allies. Rather than appoint individuals with records of expanding opportunities for millions, the Presidency has appointed individuals repeatedly cited by legislative, criminal and oversight agencies for abuse of office. Both Ruto’s critics and supporters must red card these appointments.

As we review CBC, let’s also view the nation as a place of learning. Our schools cannot produce ethical, empowered, and engaged students, if the broader environment is generating corrupt, cynical, and captured citizens.

Next year, Kenya commemorates 60 years of freedom from colonial rule. Whether it will be a celebration, or an empty ritualistic ceremony depends on whether we exercise Article 3.1 and realise our constitution.

First published in The Standard on 31st December 2022. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard.

Irũngũ Houghton is Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director and writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]