Every cool journalist is “supposed” to be able to say something like, “I was in Berlin the night the Wall fell on November 9, 1989,” or “I was there in South Africa on February 11, 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of imprisonment” or “I was on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009.”
So…I finally have my first date and hopefully, it will be the first of many great ones.
On Thursday, August 5, 2010, I was in the midst of hundreds of Kenyans in Nairobi’s city center as they celebrated the victory of the constitutional referendum–Kenya will adopt the proposed constitution!
Surely, Kenyans have spoken. With more than 6 million votes in support of the draft constitution, the “yes” team has prevailed. Officials and other talking heads have declared that from this point on, there is no more a “no” team or a “yes” team. Let all Kenyans join the Kenya team!
Throughout the streets of the nation, in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kenyans have been celebrating. And I’m so honored to have witnessed this beautiful and historic moment.
Thursday, I was home recovering from a throat infection, but I was continuously watching the referendum coverage on television. When I saw Higher Education Minister, William Ruto of the “no” camp conceding defeat, my heart raced. “So this constitution will really pass!” And Kenyans throughout the nation rejoiced yesterday, though prematurely because the results that showed the “yes” vote clearly in the lead were still provisional, according to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.
Nonetheless, President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga and Vice President Musyoka addressed the public at the Kenya International Convention Center (KICC) to declare victory. The address was to start around 4PM. I jumped out of the bed sheets, still shivering with cold shills and with painful throbs in my head, and called my trusty driver, Godfrey to tell him to take me to KICC immediately.I grabbed my audio recorder, reporter’s notebook, Canon Rebel camera and Kodak Zi8.
Godfrey arrived in 3 minutes and told me he had just seen Kibaki’s motorcade headed to the KICC. I was as giddy as….as….as a lady named Chika reporting in Kenya!
From everywhere, Kenyans made there way to see their president, many coming straight from their places of work. Jumping out the car, I made my way into the crowd and started snapping photos and asking folks questions:
“Why are you here?”
“Did you support the draft constitution? Why?”
“How will the new constitution help you as an individual?”
“What does this mean for Kenya?”
I truly had a blast. When Kibaki and Odinga presented themselves at the podium, the crowd went wild! I met a young lady name Sheila and she ended up following me. She was cool, but the brightly-dressed, 19-year-old had no idea what was going on. She has just left school and saw everyone headed toward the KICC.
Words truly can’t express my glee about this victory. The entire process was simply beautiful. Watching the daily public service announcements on the referendum on television; listening to IIEC chairman, Isaack Hassan, confirming the fairness of the referendum; watching Kenyans standing in the lines at the polling stations for hours; seeing taxi drivers reading the informative handouts on the details of the draft constitution; listening to people singing and chanting “Uhuru!” (freedom) and “Kura!” (vote) and “Haki yetu!” (our rights) throughout downtown Nairobi. This victory is not just for Kenya, but it is for Africa.
Katiba Mpya, Kenya Moja (New constitution, one Kenya)
Kofi Annan stated: “We commend the two Principals [Kibaki and Odinga] for their stewardship… and congratulate the Government and the people of Kenya for this momentous step.”
Barack Obama: “This was a significant step forward for Kenya’s democracy and the peaceful nature of the election was a testament to the character of the Kenyan people.”
Mwai Kibaki: “The historic journey that begun more than 20 years ago is coming to a historic end. Let us now hold hands together as brother and sister…The successful and peaceful conclusion of this referendum shows that our democratic institutions have come of age.”
Raila Odinga: “This constitution is actually for the liberalization of this country.”
But, the victory wasn’t final until declared by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. Today, IIEC chairman, Isaack Hassan stated:
“Pursuant to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act, 2008 and the Referendum Regulations, 2010, I do declare that the Proposed New Constitution is hereby ratified. Thank you.”
Some provisions of the new constitution:
- Two levels of government: national and regional (47 counties will be created)
- Removal of the Prime Minister position
- free secondary education
- a Bill of Rights for all Kenyans,; these are rights that people are born with and are protected by this constitution
- Kenyan citizens by birth may also be citizens of another country (dual citizenship)
- The creation of two houses in Parliament
- Limitation of Presidential powers
- The creation of a Supreme Court which will have the final word on judicial matters
- The creation of a Senate, to check the President
- The establishment of a single National Police Service which consists of the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service
- The establishment of a National Land Commission to manage all public land
- Requires all people to have access to public land
- Creates a land policy that allows people to have equitable access to land and secure land rights
- Foreigners cannot own land but can rent (lease) land for less than 99 years