Fallacies of Equality and Inequality: Will Our Rights Lie in Limbo At the Pleasure of the State?


“…Having celebrated the repeal of Kenya’s older Constitution that legitimated discrimination in the areas of adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death and personal law, I expected that the new constitutional dispensation would make the quest for equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex easier. However, in the short period that the Constitution has been in operation, the fallacies of the constitutionally entrenched principle of gender equality have become apparent in the areas of political representation and appointments to offices.” – Prof. Patricia Kameri Mbote, SC., 24th January 2013.

Kenya’s new constitutional dispensation is a radical departure from the old order and therefore it must be expected that there will be resistance to admission of new entrants by those so-called gate-keepers currently enjoying rights. My argument back then and now is that the task of implementation of the Constitution, by and large, remains in the hands of certain bureaucrats bent on exploiting society’s inherent inequalities and exclusions for their own selfish gains. Therefore, even where the supreme law steps in to try and redress these inherent incongruences, its success is wholly dependent on implementation. Herein lies, what Prof. Kameri Mbote terms, a “discernible chiasmus in the practical application of equality and non-discrimination which results in discrimination”.

In previous posts here and here, I have tried to shed light on the centrality and importance of the Equality and Non-Discrimination provision in the Constitution. In this connection, I concur fully with those that lay sharp emphasis on the role of the judiciary as the guardian of constitutional norms and values as well as being the primary institution charged to breathe life into the Constitution through interpretation.

Sitting in a packed auditorium listening to Prof. Kameri-Mbote giving her Inaugural Lecture, I couldn’t help but wonder whether our judiciary so far has been performing its crucial role as vanguard of equality and non-discrimination which includes demanding fidelity to the Constitution by the executive, the legislature and the public.
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Drawing the Line: Online Freedom, Rights Abuses and the Constitutional Imperative

“The persistent controversy about the reach of the state’s power to restrict free thought and speech in a democracy suggests that freedom of expression has still not made an unassailable case for itself.” – Githu Muigai, Esq. (September 1993).

To speak or to otherwise express oneself is a natural, and indeed an essential human activity, part of what it means to be human. Expression is therefore a means of fulfillment of the human personality. On a larger scale, freedom of expression is essential to the functioning of a democratic state. For people to make political choices they must have access to information and to different view-points. In a democracy, the right to express grievances and to propagate or criticise policies enables people to contribute to peaceful progress and change their society.

Well, atleast in theory.

Enter the curious case of Robert Alai.

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Recent Electoral Law Amendments: The Mechanical Jurisprudence of Rogue MPs

The Statute Law Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2012 has been controversially amended, in part, as follows:

Elections Act, 2011 (No. 24 of 2011)

Qualifications for nomination of candidates.
22. (1) A person may be nominated as a candidate for an election under this Act only if that person—
(a) is qualified to be elected to that office under the Constitution and this Act; and
(b) holds a post secondary school qualification recognised in Kenya.
(b) holds, at the minimum, a certificate for end of secondary school education recognized in Kenya.

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act and for the avoidance of doubt, a person who is nominated as a candidate for election as President or Deputy President is nevertheless eligible for nomination and may contest as a candidate for any other elective seat in the same elections.
(2) If a candidate for election as President or Deputy President is elected as such and is also elected for any other elective seat in the same elections, a vacancy shall thereupon be declared for that other elective seat and a by-election to fill such seat shall be held in accordance with this Act.

Participation in elections by public officers.

(5) A public officer who intends to contest an election under this Act shall resign from public office at least seven months before the date of election.
(5) A public officer who intends to contest an election under this Act shall resign from public office at least five months before the date of election.

Airtime by state radio and television for election campaign.

108. All candidates and political parties participating in an election shall be allocated reasonable airtime on state radio and television broadcasting services during the campaign period.

108. All candidates and political parties participating in an election shall be allocated reasonable airtime on all broadcasting media during the campaign period.

Political Parties Act, 2011 (No. 11 of 2011)

Transitional provisions
S. 51
(1A) Until after the first general elections held after the commencement of this Act, nothing provided for in sub-sections (4), (5) or (7) of section 14 shall be construed as requiring a person to vacate his or her seat as a member of Parliament or of a local authority, or as disqualifying any person from eligibility to contest in an election under this Act.

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The Challenge of Developing Indigenous and Patriotic Jurisprudence in Kenya

The following excerpts are taken from the Speech given by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, President of the Supreme Court and Head of the Judiciary during the Admission to the Roll of Advocates on 19, June 2012 at the Supreme Court of Kenya.

“Some have spoken of the new Constitution as representing a second independence. This is when our institutions, and the people, are to come into their own. When the legislature will truly act as the representatives of the people, and the supervisors of the executive. When the executive will put the interests of the nation first, above the interests of tribe, individual and class. And when the curse of impunity will be ended and the rule of law prevails.

This will only happen if we all, including the judiciary, play our part, for the forces of resistance are strong.

By the rule of law, I do not mean the sort of mechanical jurisprudence we saw in cases like the Kapenguria trials. It was mechanical jurisprudence that led the High Court to reach an apparently technically sound decision that the election of a sitting President could not be challenged because the opponent had not achieved the pragmatically impossible task of serving the sitting President in person. It was mechanical jurisprudence that fuelled the decision of a High Court that the former section 84 of the old Constitution (on enforcement of Bill of Rights) was inoperative because the Chief Justice had not made rules on enforcement as he was obligated by the same Constitution to do.”


“It is perhaps remarkable that, although disappointment with the judiciary was at least as great among wananchi as frustration with politicians, it is also true that the Kenyan people chose to place their faith in the institution of the new judiciary in implementing the new Constitution.

But what I want to emphasise here is the need to develop new, not only highly competent but also indigenous jurisprudence. I link this last adjective to the Constitution’s value of patriotism. Patriotism requires putting love of country above love of self. For lawyers and judges, it does not mean putting country above justice. I conceive that it requires us to develop the law in a way that responds to the needs of the people, and to the national interest. I call this patriotic and indigenous jurisprudence. Above all, it requires a commitment to the Constitution and to the achievement of its values and vision.”

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Less Gate-Keeping, More Monitoring: Towards a New Regulatory Framework for NGOs in Kenya

When all three arms of government are on one side, the Fourth Estate is meant to assert the power of the people and ensure that the State is held to account. Traditionally, this role has been played by the media but many argue that an organised civil society could be equal to such an important task. However, both the media and NGOs in Kenya (which includes Civil Society) are largely unregulated, often finding themselves consumed by profit-making and promoting partisan agendas. For today, the focus shall be on NGOs.

Currently, the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill 2012 published a few weeks ago is the hot topic of discussion in many public and private circles. To understand how this Bill proposes to rein in NGOs and clean up the sector, we must recall some of the issues that this Bill is trying to address. Firstly the definitional issue, and then the major issue of regulation both state regulation of NGOs and self regulation of NGOs amongst themselves.

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NHIF Fiasco: Constructive Tension, Individual Conscience and Access to Information under the Constitution

The nation continues to watch as the National Health Insurance Fund is embroiled in controversy over how a certain Clinix Healthcare Ltd received Sh202 million for treating civil servants, of which Sh91 million went to non-existent or ‘ghost’ clinics. Understandably, everyone is interested in knowing who are the directors and shareholders of Clinix Healthcare Ltd. However there is a larger issue that we must grapple with, that of responsibility. Responsibility here must be seen in two ways: collective and individual. Collective responsibility means that because of the actions of a greedy few within NHIF, both its Board and Management owe Kenyans Sh202 million. By extension, the government through NHIF’s parent ministry: Ministry of Medical Service is also responsible since it failed to regulate, supervise and monitor the goings-on at the embattled health parastatal.

But to many the more pivotal question is that of individual responsibility.

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