It’s the eve before the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution and the hope and excitement surrounding tomorrow’s event is palpable.
I’m watching Nation TV’s special live coverage from Uhuru Park, where the new constitution will be formally enacted tomorrow morning. Once President Kibaki publicly reads and signs the document, the signing in of the president, prime minister, vice-president and Speaker of the House will begin. Later in the day, all members of parliament (over 200) and judges in the country, previously accountable to the old constitution, will also be sworn in under the new one.
The hosts on television are saying this moment is the “highly most anticipated event in Kenya’s history,” second only to when Kenya gained independence in 1963.
And the strong sentiment towards the historic event is felt in all sectors of society.
After work today I went to a market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. After buying passion fruit, pears, and bananas from one vendor, I wished him a good weekend. With a grin, he asked if I knew about the new kisheria (Kiswahili for constitution) tomorrow. I said I did, and his grin grew wider.
Upon leaving the market, my friend and I stopped to buy some sugar cane from a man cutting and dicing fresh stalks. We began chatting, and he enquired about what we were doing in Kenya. When we told him we are here for the next several months he told us now is a very good time to be here because of the constitution. “It’s a brand new Kenya,” he said while pulling a metre long stalk of sugar cane from a bucket and preparing it.
In the August 4 referendum 67 per cent of voters checked “yes” for this constitution. Among the changes are reigning in of presidential powers, reform to land ownership, and equal rights for spouses, including in common law marriages.
How will the constitution affect me? Previously, Kenyans were unable to have dual citizenship. That is no longer the case. As I speak with different people about the various provisions, several have said to me, “Now, you too can be a Kenyan.”
And it’s the possibilities that come with tomorrow’s assent that are fuelling the hope that hangs in the air.