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Voters approved constitution that calls for new laws and cooperation.
Kisumu is a stronghold of Luos, Raila Odinga’s ethnic group. Kibaki would have been persona non grata in Kisumu in 2008.
Of course, Kibaki and Odinga had their own personal motivations for working together on the "Yes" campaign. Kibaki wants to ensure his political legacy, and Odinga is maneuvering in advance of the 2012 presidential elections.
The shift their collaboration represents among the Kenya population is much more significant. For Kenya to move forward, this new constitution is necessary. It places important limitations on the executive branch — including the possibility of impeachment; it creates a more independent judiciary; it devolves power to local counties; and it creates a Bill of Rights.
However, the new constitution is not sufficient. A critical mass of the population — the same Kenyans who voted "Yes" on Aug. 4 — must be invested in the new political system the constitution calls for. Without this belief, implementation will falter. To implement the constitution, Kenya’s parliament will need to pass more than 60 laws. It typically passes six to eight laws per year, according to the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. Kenyans must remain vigilant, pressuring their MPs to implement the constitution quickly.
The East Africa office of the Society for Independent Development published a short report in late July outlining three potential scenarios for the referendum. Its “Ndoto” or “dream” scenario describes the referendum passing, but the many challenges that Kenya will face in its aftermath.
First, creating new political institutions is expensive. The Ndoto scenario predicts rising tensions between the national government and the newly created county governments over budget allocations.
Second, the new Bill of Rights will prompt a surge in litigation.
Finally, the report projects a busy parliament, with an agenda “dominated by land issues as entrenched interests sought to undermine the reform spirit contained in the new constitution.”
And this is the dream scenario. As it makes clear, Kenya has a lot of work to do. But youth compose 70 percent of the population, and they have the most to gain emergence of a political system that encourages political alliances across ethnic groups, that has robust checks against corruption, and that provides equal rights to minorities and women.
The big men who have benefited from Kenya’s current political system of political patronage and lack of accountability are quiet now. The margin of victory for the referendum was too large to dispute. But they will not rest in their efforts to subvert the implementation of the new constitution. Kenyans who want a better future for their country cannot rest either.