The Nation (Nairobi)

6 August 2010

Kenya: Need for Education on Proposed Constitution

editorial

President Kibaki is expected to give assent to the new Constitution any time now to mark the start of the journey towards a fresh legal, social, political and economic order.

As acknowledged by the two principals -- the President and Prime Minister Raila Odinga -- on Thursday, the hard work is yet to begin.

A raft of new laws have to be enacted within a fairly short period to provide the basis for implementing provisions of the new constitution.

Some, however, are self-triggering. Immediately after the presidential nod, several clauses will come into effect.

Included in these are the provisions on rights -- health, education, legal representation, fair trial and information.

Others are dual citizenship, gender balance in public appointments, equal rights among spouses, and change of land lease from 999 years to 99.Granted, other clauses will be actualised through the proposed implementation commission, which should be put in place within three months.

Of concern are the clauses that should be effected in the short-term. In the first place, they require administrative structures for their realisation. Second is public awareness, especially in regard to the Bill of Rights.

Tied to this is interpretation of the clauses to provide a common understanding among the rights seekers and providers.For example, the provision on right to healthcare is likely to elicit different interpretations from the health providers and those seeking the service.

Moreover, when the new law roots for gender equality in public appointments, what does that portend for organisations that are currently skewed in favour of one group?

So far, Attorney General Amos Wako has signalled that he has mobilised adequate personnel to author the necessary pieces of legislation for parliamentary debate and approval. Fair enough, but what about the requisite administrative systems?

The AG's office and the Ministry of Justice have a duty to mount massive public education to enable citizens understand how the new law is going to affect them, in the short and long run.

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