The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation: Building a Progressive Kenya - Background Note


Prepared by South Consulting

December 2011


1. Following the political violence that engulfed Kenya after the disputed December 2007 General Election, international mediation by the African Union’s (AU) Panel of Eminent African Personalities, comprising Mr Kofi Annan (Chair), Mr Benjamin Mkapa and Mrs Graca Machel, brought the two main parties -- the Government/Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – into the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) forum for dialogue and mediation. The overall goal of the KNDR process was to achieve sustainable peace, stability and justice in Kenya through the rule of law and respect for human rights.

2. The parties committed themselves to end violence and identified long-standing issues that had caused the crisis. The high number of people killed and displaced from their homes raised an urgent need for the parties to end the crisis. The Panel subsequently facilitated the signing of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, which marked the end of violence.

3. The parties agreed to a four-point agenda:

• Agenda Item 1: Immediate action to stop the violence and restore fundamental rights and liberties;

• Agenda Item 2: Immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, and promote healing and reconciliation;

• Agenda Item 3: How to overcome the political crisis;

• Agenda Item 4: Addressing long-term issues, including undertaking constitutional, legal and institutional reforms; land reform; tackling poverty and inequality as well as combating regional development imbalances; tackling unemployment, particularly among the youth; consolidating national cohesion and unity; and addressing transparency, accountability and impunity.

4. This background note provides a summary of progress made towards realising the goals of the KNDR process. The discussion examines what has been achieved thus far and the country’s preparedness for the next general election. The note also aims at initiating a debate on how to transform Kenya into a progressive nation, especially now that its constitution opens the space for far reaching reforms. The note draws from the various quarterly reports released by South Consulting over the past three years. The reports examine progress made in the implementation of reforms under the KNDR agreements.

5. The promulgation of a new constitution in August 2010 turned a new page in Kenya’s history. This achievement was the biggest milestone in Kenya’s tortuous reform journey of over two decades. Indeed, it is the most important outcome of the KNDR process so far.

6. The new constitution has raised public optimism for a new political culture by laying down national values and principles of governance to guide Kenya into the future. It establishes a sound framework for a new and a progressive nation - complete with new institutions and new values. It has demolished old institutions and created new ones – there is a new sense of optimism and hope. Upholding fundamental rights and freedoms are the cornerstone of this new Kenya.

7. It is acknowledged that the constitution has filled a major lacuna that had long prevented the realisation of fundamental reforms. But the new constitution is not an end in itself; it is a means to realising a new society and a new future. It is a means to sustainable peace, stability and justice in Kenya. However, the constitution is being implemented in an environment that is continuously changing: both the economy and politics are in a state of flux which pose certain challenges for the journey to a new and progressive Kenya. The section below discusses the significance of this environment for the journey to a progressive Kenya.