New Kenyan Constitution will Aid Efforts to Counter Human Trafficking

Richard Muko Ochanda

Constitution making in Kenya has been a long journey. This long journey ushered in a new dawn when Kenyans voted overwhelmingly for the new constitution (67%) during the 4th August 2010 referendum. The draft voted for was referred to as “The Proposed Constitution of Kenya, 6th May 2010.”

During 21st November 2005, a proposed constitution then referred to as the Bomas Draft was rejected by Kenyans because it vested much power on the presidency and had no good mechanisms of distributing the national wealth to the citizens. The immediate former constitution in Kenya was crafted at the Lancaster house in order to help the independent Kenya move forward. Many ills facing the country today have been blamed on this document including vesting too much power on the political elite and marginalizing women.

With poor distributive mechanisms poverty was bound to grow. Some individuals and regions were favored more than others. Today 56% of Kenyans live below the poverty line.  Bourguignon a one time World Bank Chief Economist  argued that growth is good for the economy as it shifts the wealth distribution curve towards more wealth. He added that distribution that follows economic growth on the other hand helps concentrate the wealth distribution in the middle with a resultant effect of increasing the size of the middle  class reducing the distribution that is under the poverty line and that that is super wealth.

Many economists have argued that growth is a function of many things, key amongst them being geography, institutions and trade. The most important of the three functions is institutions which emanates from the structures of governance. Good institutions encourage enterprise and attracts investors. Where  the good institutions of a particular country help to put more cents in the pockets of the poor, this not only contributes to poverty reduction but also to economic development in the long run. Good institutions not only bring about economic growth but also spur the distributive mechanisms so that the entire economy grows together in tandem.

One great concern for Kenya today is how to tackle many endemic  problems  stemming out of poverty. Of concern to us is the problem of human trafficking. Human trafficking mostly affects women.  Women and children are more vulnerable to human trafficking  because of  the mainly patriarchal structures of the society. The patriarchal structures tend to favor men where matters pertaining to culture and social economic well being. Women on the other hand have to grapple along the patriarchal constraints. The new constitution has dealt with several issues and proposes to bring about a power balance between men and women.

The constitution recognizes the need to empower women in many ways.

Distribution

Poverty was one major causes that led to post electoral violence during the 2007-2008 elections. It is a fact that historically  wealth distribution in Kenya has always been skewed to a few sections, communities or individuals of the country while many have been languishing behind. The new constitution provides that 15% of national income will be directed to counties. While this intervention is much welcome, a caveat must be imposed. Allocative mechanisms  per se will not guarantee development but the willingness of people to be ingenious and ready to develop their regions. Counties therefore will require good financial management of moneys. In Italy for example, the regions in the South are always blamed for lagging behind despite much money being invested therein. One important principle in EU is the principle of subsidiarity: where a region is given autonomy to handle issue considered to be within its own area of competence.  The challenge that the new constitution imposes on the counties is to ensure that they work towards providing the basic services to Kenyans in the best way they can. Hence, this approach of devolution imposes the responsibility of  tackling the poverty problem at the grassroots level idiosyncratically at the counties and at the macro level through the government of national unity. This double pronged approach to addressing the poverty problem will certainly help lift a good portion out of poverty and hence reduce incidences to any forms of vulnerability.

Empowerment of Women and other marginalized groups

The constitution provides that the parliament shall enact a legislation to promote the representation in parliament of women, persons with disabilities, youth, ethnic and other minorities, and marginalized communities. Women have always been on the periphery on the domestic as well as on matters of national affair. The constitution has not only spared a place for them in the political arena but also in matters regarding inheritance and culture. If women and other vulnerable groups are allowed full participation in the socio-economic arena then their vulnerability will be greatly reduced.

Accountability and Answerability of Public Officers


Accountability and answerability is something that is echoed strongly in the new constitution. Public officers or politicians who approve usage of  government resources contrary to law will be liable for any loss arising from that transaction, whether the person remains a holder of the office or not. Certainly, it is also hoped from this provisions that public officers will become more diligent while serving the public.

There are so many other benefits that will accrue to the Kenyan citizens. Some fruits may be evident in a short while while others will take time. However, the journey to rebuilding and restoring Kenya began with the crucial YES vote on the 4th August 2010. Equittable wealth distribution is one of the best ways to combat human trafficking in our Kenyan communities.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Paul Adhoch
    Aug 07, 2010 @ 15:29:25

    Richard,
    Certainly, the new costitution will support the counter trafficking efforts in Kenya. Coupled with the counter trafficking Act (Once assented), we are likely to have a strengthened legislative approach to counter trafficking.

    The basis for implementation will obviously be the concerted effort by civil society and the government in letting Kenyans know what trafficking is all about.

    WE are glad Consolation is doing her part.
    Paul Adhoch
    Trace Kenya

    Like

    Reply

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