Kenya's New Constitution and Conflict Transformation


The infamous 2007/8 post-election violent conflict that engulfed Kenya and attracted global attention was by no means unprecedented. Indeed, the country’s history includes episodes of violent conflict, some of the causes of which are still unresolved. A repeated failure to address the root causes of these violent conflicts has occasioned their reoccurrence and further entrenched their underlying factors, such as impunity, weak accountability in governance, corruption, politicised ethnicity, inequitable resource distribution, poverty and marginalisation. The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process, which ended the 2007–2008 post-election violence (PEV), considered in its fourth agenda item long-term issues and solutions to address the root causes of conflict that have led to episodic violence in Kenya, and made proposals for extensive reforms. Constitutional reform is the foundation supporting other legal and institutional reforms to tackle effectively long-standing issues impeding sustainable peace.

Within the conceptual framework of conflict transformation, this paper analyses the ways in which sections of Kenya’s new constitution, adopted on 27 August 2010, address the root causes of conflict. This paper identifies Kenya’s root causes of conflict and examines how the new constitution provides for reforms on governance, democracy, human rights, ethnicity and resource sharing. However, a lack of clarity in how some of these provisions will be achieved is cause for concern, as is how certain implementation challenges will be surmounted. Recognising that the potency of the new constitution depends on its faithful implementation, the paper recommends sustained, extensive civic education, technical and financial support for the implementing institutions and the continued engagement of all Kenyans in ensuring the spirit of the constitution is preserved in its implementation.