Sixty-seven percent of Kenyan citizens voted to implement a new constitution late last week, which will decrease the powers of the presidency, expand the rights of citizens and advance the status of women. The referendum vote replaces colonial-era legislation and makes Kenya one of one of the most politically progressive nations in Africa.
The campaign for a new constitution began three years ago and was led by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to the Guardian. The new laws drastically altar the structure of modern Kenyan government, which has been in place since the nation gained independence in 1963. According to the Associated Press, a Supreme Court and Senate will be instituted and make it possible for a president to be impeached.
The new constitution has a focus on improving the status of women and includes affirmative action, guarantees women positions in government, and provides for improvements in healthcare, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Grace Maingi, the executive director of Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers said, “under the proposed Constitution, 47 special seats have been set aside for women in Parliament. When political parties are nominating 12 members to the August House, they will have to pay special attention to gender parity – an obvious departure from what has been the norm,” according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Joachim Osur, a reproductive health expert said, “We expect better deployment of health workers in all parts of the country, better nutrition and provision of health services. We expect more women to deliver in hospitals and a sharp improvement of family planning services.”
Nijonjo Mue, head of the Kenya chapter of the International Centre for Transitional Justice said, “If accompanied by strong follow-up action, the new constitution will improve Kenya’s prospects for democracy, justice and respect for human rights. But this is just one step in the long journey towards Kenya’s rebirth. It will take vigilance and the participation of all the Kenyan people to help make these promised changes meaningful,” according to the Guardian.