The baby is born- Kenya’s New constitution

Sophie Ngugi
Posted August 7, 2010 from Kenya

I realized one might not need to have held a new born baby to know the joy of a mother on safely delivering a baby. I felt that joy. It was 5th day of August 2010, I was sitting in the coach following news closely despite a doctor’s advice to take rest, but this was not the time to miss the happenings in Kenya. I was wishing I can scream and shout aloud, WE HAVE A NEW CONSTITTION, but flu had put me down and I could only shout in my heart. I could not believe that it was finally here, the joy can not be described in words. I had been so passionate about the proposed constitution, that for me this was just a climax and my ill health didn’t deter my joy.

The constitution making process in Kenya has a long history. The previous constitution of Kenya was made at Lancaster house upon the Kenyan independence in 1963, and now was another moment to get a new homemade constitution. The first referendum was marred by a lot of politicking with the proposed constitution getting edited a long way to the extent that Kenyans no longer recognized their efforts in bringing their views into the constitution, and hence in 2005 the proposed constitution was rejected.

The constitutional moment was reignited in 2008 following the post elections violence in Kenya, the worst violence to ever be experienced in Kenya that left many Kenyans killed, injured, displaced and the belief in the national processes seriously challenged. The national accord was signed that allowed for power sharing and creation of the prime minister and deputy prime ministers’ position. One of the most critical aspects of the national accord was the popular ‘Agenda 4’. The long standing issues identified under Agenda Item 4 included: a) Undertaking constitutional, legal and institutional reforms; b) Tackling poverty and inequality as well as combating regional development imbalances; c) Tackling unemployment especially among the youth; d) Consolidating national cohesion and unity; e) Undertaking land reforms; f) Addressing transparency, accountability and impunity.

A national cohesion commission, a commission of inquiry into the post elections violence and the Transitional justice and reconciliation commissions were among the institutions that were set up to handle different aspects. The Electoral Commission of Kenya that was blamed for the flawed elections was disbanded and the Interim and Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) was set up.

Quite critical was the constitutional making process, and the process required that : Parliament to enact a Review Statute including a timetable; Parliament to enact a referendum law; The preparation of a Draft Constitution in a consultative process with expert assistance; Parliament to approve the Draft Constitution; and, The people to enact a new Constitution through a referendum. The law was passed during the crisis period and it was made water tight enough not to be interfered with at different levels as has been the case in many instances. The Committee of Experts (CoE) was set up and the process started and the progress was more of a parachute that has been released and it had to land, could not be stopped halfway. Since November 2009, different drafts were given with consultations and give and take and in May we finally had the Proposed Constitution of Kenya (PCK) that was to be subjected to the referendum, the final and climax process.

I have many aha moments in the journey that Kenya undertook and will highlight them as I go on. The first in this is the resilience in which Kenyans bounce back, it’s amazing! Following the post elections violence, many people burnt their voters’ cards; many swore to never go for elections. When the IIEC called for the fresh registration of voter’s country wide, they optimistically but cautiously put a target of ten million, but this was surpassed! Twelve million Kenyans registered and 72% voter turn out was registered, that is resilience at its best.

The journey was joyous, challenging, tough and exciting. I saw Kenyan citizens taking up the mantle and giving their time, resources and in terms of time, money and knowledge to enable other citizens understand the provisions in the then PCK. While they were two sides to this debate, those supporting (with the color Green) and those opposing the PCK (with the color Red) several issues came up. One unique entry into the debate was the Clergy where most of the Christian leaders openly opposed the PCK with the main bone of contention being the ‘abortion clause’. The ‘contentious’ clause (Article 26.4) reads ‘Abortion is not permitted unless in the opinion of a trained health professional there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger; or if permitted by any other written law’ . Many discussions went on around this and the sorry fact is that the discussion was more of religious (men mostly) discussing the reproductive health of women and with some even out rightly showing disregard for the health of women. In many instances discussion was skewed to portray women as immoral human beings waiting to getting abortion at the earliest opportunity. The fact that there are millions of abortion related maternal deaths, or that abortion has not been expressly legalized in the provisions didn’t feature. My disappointment is the observation that the same clergy who are eager to protect life never speak out when laws to protect lives of women like the sexual offences act are being discussed. In one of the mainstream Churches, a clergy in the last few months was dismissed from his services in the Church when he openly expressed desire to take up parental responsibility of a child he had sired. For me this was just patriarchy flexing its muscles.

As a result of the increased involvement of the clergy in the constitutional debate many of us stopped attending church services! The Church was clearly losing its influence and the clergy need to do much more to win back the confidence of the followers.

Some of the hilarious happenings were the appearance of ‘Paul the Octopus’ joke! And the portrayal of ‘Green win’ was one hilarious graphics.

As I engaged in different ways, I could feel excitement building and I felt the stakes were so high we could not afford to lose the proposed constitution. I saw this as the greatest opportunity for rebuilding Kenya and giving women what they have asked for long time. I failed to imagine the possibility of losing the vote in the referendum.

Some of the great highlights included the civic education trainings, the rallies and conferences and the one-one engagements with different individuals on the same. One of common feedback in the forums I attended or facilitated, which were mostly forums for women, was the power of knowledge. At one time one woman commented that she was feeling like the spirit had descended on her; that was how she could describe deep feeling she got from realizing what the constitution had in store for her. The low moments was when I felt slighted by persons who found it upon themselves to make assumptions, and one person told me that I must have been given money to promote the constitution! This could not deter my efforts; neither did the different sentiments deter the efforts of other young women who I interacted closely with. We formed a support mechanism coming to each other’s assistance where need be and being there for each other. Sisterhood at it’s best.

As the day drew nearer, I kept making sure that my voter’s card and ID are intact for the great day. I counted the day to the hour. Two days before the referendum, I started developing some sore throat which escalated to flu to the chest, but somehow it had not struck me to see a doctor until a friend asked if I had seen a doctor! On August 4, I had planned to be at polling station in my Gatundu North constituency at 0600hours but by then getting out of bed was a struggle. I managed to get to the polling station at 1000hrs and cast the vote! I had to recheck to make sure I had put the mark in the right place! Finally the day was here!

As I went to hospital and later stayed in bed for two days following the proceedings as much as I could manage, I could not help but feel proud of being Kenyan. The world was watching with some predicting violence. There was peaceful voting! I was so impressed by the IIEC who conducted the elections n the best way we have had in history; it was a big win for Kenya. Kenyans became more informed than ever before and engaged on civic issues more than ever before. The media in Kenya played a great role in making sure that the citizens got a chance to know what was in the proposed constitution. Individuals organized to have forums in their localities. Women’s organizations held forums to educate women on the benefits that the PCK had for women. It was Kenyans for Kenya.

The first leg of journey is over, the baby is here, and regardless of the journey ahead in implementing, we can pose for a moment and celebrate!

Oh Kenya we have a NEW CONSITUTION! No longer ‘proposed’ but NEW.

God bless Kenya!

Comments 8

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  • Carri Pence
    Aug 09, 2010
    Aug 09, 2010

    This is great news and is symbolizes the power of the Kenyan people. I love your words and vision. They both represent unity, solutions, and the resilience of the Kenyan people. Furthermore, it shows the beauty and excitement when so many have a common goal and work towards that goal. An voter outcome of over seventy percent is amazing and we as the world should all follow Kenya's path, where even US voter turnout was less than sixty percent in 2008's presidential election. Thanks for your entry, it was one that cultivated my emotions of what a government should be and the positive effect that comes from people working together!

    In friendship, Carri Pence

  • Sophie Ngugi
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    The power of people has shown its impact in Kenya. After the violent elections, it was feared people have lost the belief in the power of the ballot but this has been proved is indeed great for Kenya!

  • Matilda Moyo
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    Hey Sophie,

    Congrats to you and Kenyans at large. This truly was a historic moment not only for Kenya but for Africa as a whole. Your success is ours too, so we celebrate with you.

    I'm glad you managed to cast your vote before checking into hospital. I have read and listened to some Kenyans from diverse backgrounds talking about the process and the degree of ownership that ordinary citizens have for this new constitution is amazing and impressive.

    It is rather interesting that there are some parallels between Kenya and Zimbabwe's constitution-making processes. Like Kenya, the first constititution for an independent Zimbabwe was drawn up at Lancaster House - this is the constitution currently in use although it has been amended 19 times! Also, like Kenya, the first attempt at a home grown constitution did not work out as people were unhappy with the product that was developed by the Constitutional Commission and rejected it during the referendum. Currently, we are undergoing yet another process which is being led by Parliament and we hope this will yield the desired results.

    I hope in a few months time, I too, will be releasing a sigh of relief as Zimbabweans celebrate the making of a new constitution and the birth of a new era in this beloved country. Although fate is unpredictable, I remain optimistic.

    Thanks for sharing.



  • Sophie Ngugi
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    Interesting to note we have in much in common and you didn't even mention post elections violence and the grand coalition government! This is indeed great for Africa and I am optimistic that the referendums expected in the region like yours and the Sudan one will prove Africans are ripe for democracy!

  • Vivian Emesowum
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    It's GREAT, the long awaiting constitution have been born to life. Long Live Kenyans!!!

  • Sophie Ngugi
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    Its exciting really and we strive to make sure Kenya is a better place

  • Amani K
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    Sophie, habari!!!

    Your story is truly representative of the new Kenya - young people grouping together, to give each other moral support against the pessimists who can be so annoying, in order to stand for what they KNOW is the right thing to do for Kenya. Can you imagine, Sophie if we had believed all those early polls that said 'Green' was not going to make it?? I am so PROUD of young Kenyans like you who have chosen to take the mantle of our nation forward, into a future of action, hope and peace.

    I cannot tell you how deeply delighted i am to read this story because i see the same spirit operate in 2012. Let skeptics know that Kenyans are taking matters of change in their hands and working towards making that change happen. Every time people take a stand for something, the skeptics say "you have been given money." And some people drop their cause because of this. I am so happy that Sophie and her friends chose, instead of giving up, to form a support group and to continue with their cause towards attaining a new constitution. The fact that the churches and 'old school of thought' have lost means something for institutions and people who want others to follow blindly.Politicians too need to realize the days of paying one hundred bob to burn another's house, destroy property, and kill are over. People are thinking for themselves!! They can see what is happening and they KNOW BEST where the shoe is pinching and who is tightening that pinch!! Like that women in your story Sophie, when people know the real story, the issues, their understanding shifts. Indeed, the holy spirit of self awareness is sweeping across our nation and the continent. Zimbabwe shall also be free!!! it is a matter of time. I say, 'if Moi left, Mugabe shall go too!!

    Now that the baby has been born, it will take all of us Mothers, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters; cousins, nieces and nephews, grandparents, uncles and aunties - all of Kenya to ensure the baby is natured, loved, cared for and supported. The baby must be protected and allowed to grow, We all must purpose to ensure the constitution is implemented and that the rule of law, justice and the freedoms of people articulated in the constitution are upheld. A baby does not grow in one day. So, let us all pull up our sleeves, and get to work. This baby must GROW!!!

    Congratulations Kenya!! Democracy is well and alive in our nation. Let us allow it to spread in love, peace and unity!!!

    Kenya is more... we will continue to make our democracy embrace and protect the rights of everyone - especially children and women in Kenya!!!

    Thank you Sophie, for sharing your story!!! it is so very inspiring.

    Karambu Ringera International Peace Initiatives (

  • Sophie Ngugi
    Aug 10, 2010
    Aug 10, 2010

    thanks Karambu, indeed its our role to ensure this baby grows and mature, and Kenyans have learned from the past am sure we are better off. I just read in today's paper how people are increasing the demand for a new constitution! Kenyans are more aware and after 2008 I can only thank God that Kenyans have come back with a swing! Asante dada!