Friday 17th October 2014: Implementation from below: What strategies can citizens use to compel political will for constitutional implementation?

1.     How do we build political will from the bottom?

2.     How do we move towards constructive active citizenship?

3.     How can political will be refocused to address the needs of the citizens?

4.     What roles do citizens have in influencing political will towards realizing the constitution?

5.     How can we achieve citizen driven governance?

6.     Building citizens capacity for political will

7.     How can we give power to the people


Constitutional Provisions:

  1. Art 1 (1) All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution.
  2. Art. 1 (2) The people may exercise this sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.
  3. Sovereign power under the Constitution is delegated to state organs, which shall perform their functions in accordance with the Constitution.

Outline of Key Facts:

  1. The Kenyan constitution envisions a democratic, just, equitable and economically prosperous society.  This is set to be delivered through the Constitutional promises of public participation, integrity, equality and devolution.
  2. The Constitution provides for devolved system of government, made up of 47 counties; a system that promises to promote equality through enhanced service delivery at the county level and bringing the government closer to the people.
  3. The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) in its assessment of devolution a year on, states that most laws required to give effect to devolution. According to the report, 93 Bills had been assented to, 36 passed and 162 have been tabled in parliament.
  4. In addition, many of the structures and systems required to facilitate the performance of county functions are in place.  Almost every county government has a County Public Service Board, a County Assembly Service Board, and a financial management system.  Most counties have appointed persons required for the structures.
  5. Every county has established departments to implement most of the 14 functions of county governments outlined in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. According to the CIC report, at least 35 counties have established departments to implement 10 out of the required 14 functions.  
  6. Most counties have established units of decentralisation such as sub-counties, wards, and villages with administrators in each.  These units are intended to put in place structures to increase service delivery to citizens.
  7. Moreover, many counties have established a variety of structures for public participation.  The CIC’s assessment report of devolution in Kenya indicates that more than half of the 47 counties in Kenya have established structures for public participation.  These structures include: notice boards announcing jobs, appointments, procurement, awards and other public interest issues (85%), budget preparation and validation fora (79%), information communication technology based platforms (72%), development project sites (70%), town hall meetings (68%), and establishment of citizen for at county and decentralised units (55%).
  8. Despite these provisions, relationships between citizens and leaders remain constrained and citizens do not feel closer to governments as envisioned in the Constitution. Service delivery remains wanting and county priorities are not reflective of the needs of communities.
  9. As declared by 11 partners working on the KDP Active Citizenship Programme, the Constitutional vision is being strangled by tokenistic participation strategies, disrespect for the rule of the law and rapidly intensifying conflictual relationships between and among our elected Representatives, National and County Governments. In this context, the constitution is becoming less of a covenant and more of a football that our leaders are playing games with.
  10. Therefore, while the Constitution gives power to the people, citizens do not feel empowered to hold their leaders to account, and sovereign power as enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution is yet to belong to the people of Kenya.
  11. Clearly, legislation, structures and systems are not enough to realize the promises of the Constitution.  To quote Jay Naidoo, we need the political will and leadership across all sectors to ensure that our constitutional democracies work for all our citizens. Navigating a roadmap through this political minefield and declining civic space requires a finesse and political skill that we have to build as citizens and communities. Building citizen participation beyond the regular commitment to free and fair elections and ensuring accountability and transparency in between is crucial.