SUCCESS STORY FROM KAMUKUNJI COMMUNITY JUSTICE CENTRE – VINCENT ONANO ONDEGO

Success: Vincent Onano Ondego
Vincent Onano Ondego approached the Kamukunji Community Justice Centre (KCJC) seeking legal advice and possible representation regarding a dispute with his landlord. Vincent Onano Ondego, a humble, middle-aged man with a family of seven children approached the justice centre in 2018, seven years since he’d heard about the services offered by the justice centre.

Sometime in 2011, a friend living with Onano in Nairobi’s Majengo neighborhood had informed him of legal assistance he got from the justice centre in a dispute with his tenant. Mr. Onano had worked as a night guard for much of his adult life struggling with raising his family when he unexpectedly lost his job in 2015. Even with this setback, life had to move on and Onano set up a makeshift ‘kibanda’ on an open space adjacent to his house to start a shoe-making and repair business. Mr. Onano, the cobbler thrived in this area and worked at his station until sometime in August 2018 when he served his landlord with notice to move house. The landlord turned hostile and claimed ownership of the business operation space as part of his property. Onano could not fathom this claim as he had painstakingly built up his premises over time and it was the only source of livelihood for his family.

Afterwards the landlord locked his work station illegally, Onano visited the Kamukunji Community Justice Centre to get assistance. He was directed to the assistant chief who offered authorization for Onano to continue with his work as the kibanda was on a road reserve and not on the landlord’s property. The justice centre also wrote a letter to the landlord asking him to cease the illegal eviction. Armed with the two letters, Mr. Onano went back to continue with his work, however, the wealthy landlord co-opted other local administration officials and police officers to disregard this legal position. Guided by the community paralegals, Onano approached the rent restriction tribunal and filed a claim. The tribunal is established under Section 4 of the Rent Restriction Act, Cap 296, Laws of Kenya and is mandated to determine disputes between landlords and tenants of protected tenancies, which are residential buildings whose rent does not exceed Ksh. 2500.

On 26th November, 2018 the hearing was conducted and Mr. Onano got orders protecting him from eviction even as he self-represented himself with the guidance of the community paralegals. The orders were served to the area police division head for enforcement and after a tedious process of follow-up process, the business premises were opened and Mr. Onano was back in operation. Mr. Onano was very grateful to the Kamukunji Community Justice centre and the community paralegals for walking the long journey with him to protect his rights. A lot of time was lost when his kibanda was illegally closed but now Mr. Onano is a happy cobbler fending for his family and serving the community.

RCKM

Kituo Cha Sheria

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SUCCESS STORY FROM KAMUKUNJI COMMUNITY JUSTICE CENTRE – JOSEPH ONYANGO

Success Story: Joseph Onyango
J
oseph Onyango approached the Kamukunji Community Justice Centre (KCJC) seeking legal advice and possible representation regarding a succession matter in his rural home in Siaya County. Mr. Onyango was a founding member of KCBONET, a local Community Based Organization which is the host entity of the Kamukunji Community Justice Centre. He was therefore not new to the work undertaken by the centre. He sought legal assistance on a succession matter undertaken in 2013.

As a resident of Majengo, Nairobi, Mr. Onyango was not aware of the process of succession that was initiated and completed illegally by a member of his family of seven brothers. The area land registrar undertook sub-division without consultation and disinherited some members of the estate. In December 2016, with assistance from the justice centre coordinator Mr. Ezekiel Njenga; Mr. Onyango started the journey of correcting an injustice. They revived and followed up the case at the Siaya and Kisumu Law Courts, for three years they together uncovered a lot of misinformation, lies and forgeries in the succession documents used including fake names and signatures.

Their hard work paid off when the Confirmation of Grant was issued by the Court sitting in Kisumu for the Estate of Mzee Obaki to be re-distributed correctly and involve all members of the Estate. The Court issued orders for the title deeds to be surrendered to the land registrar. The succession process will kick-off on the 31st of January, 2019.

Mr. Onyango says he’s been helped a lot by the community justice paralegals and while the process has been long the family has got another opportunity to do the right thing and be mindful of all family members.

RCKM

Kituo Cha Sheria

REBUILDING THE IEBC: KENYA’S QUEST FOR A STABLE &SUITABLE ELECTORAL MANAGEMENT BODY (EMB)

REBUILDING THE IEBC: KENYA’S QUEST FOR A STABLE &SUITABLE ELECTORAL MANAGEMENT BODY (EMB)

Electoral justice is one of the predominant themes of 2017 general elections in Kenya. While it carries with a number of components, a strong, stable and suitable electoral management body (EMB) is crucial. The quest for an independent and impartial election administrator has however eluded Kenya for a long time. The last couple of months have helped fortify this position as the Chebukati-lead IEBC has treated Kenyans to political leanings, bias, public wrangles, unprofessionalism, bangled elections, accusations and counter-accusations punctuated by public resignations of commissioners hence facing imminent disbandment, contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and International standards of election management. This article is dedicated to question of stable and suitable electoral management body for Kenya. How can Kenya break the jinx of incompetent EMB’s? Can Kenya finally get it right with an EMB? Which is the road to achieve this, legal or otherwise?

Centrality of EMB’s to Electoral Justice   

The concept of electoral justice is three fold, thus: ensuring that each action, procedure and decision relating to the election process complies with the legal framework, protecting and restoring electoral rights and giving people who believe their electoral rights have been violated, the ability to file a challenge, have their case heard and receive a ruling. These cannot be achieved without a proper, functional, stable and suitable EMB. In retrospect, if the election administrators deliver free, fair, credible, verifiable and lawful elections then, the need for electoral justice vanishes. The lack of a proper EMB in Kenya has over the years plunged Kenya into a constant need for electoral justice.  This has metamophosized into election violence witnessed in 1992, 1997, 2007 and 2017. Furthermore, Kenya has heard numerous changes and failure of election managers and administrators pointing to the instability hence the need to rebuild and find a solution. What does history say?

Historical Appreciation of EMB’s in Kenya

Elections in Kenya can be traced back to 1963. The first of them termed as “the pre-independence election” pitting KANU against KADU. These elections were conducted by the provincial administration but were seen to be free, fair and credible as there was no incumbent. By 1966 the tide had turned, “the little general election” meant to neutralize Vice- President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga began the journey to election turmoil in Kenya. The elections were more or less managed by KANU and the Provincial Administration whose duty was to please President Kenyatta and Mboya. KANU and President Kenyatta’s cronies kept on killing the opposition, weakening the democratic space and manipulating the election managers. This habit was picked up by President Moi, climaxed in 1988 by the Mlolongo elections where, manipulation of election results, intimidation, electoral violence were the order of the day, presided over by a dysfunctional EMB.

 President Moi eventually instituted minimum electoral reforms and allowed for multi-party elections in 1992. He attempted to create the first electoral commission in Kenya, however these gains were quickly washed away as they were all appointed by the incumbent and were marred by controversies. He then attempted to create an impartial electoral commission in 1997. Unlike 1992, this time, he appointed commissioners from a list provided by opposition parties under the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG). This did not however change perception of bias, rigging and incompetence of the EMB.

In 2007, the symptoms of a bad EMB turned into a full-blow disease. The Samuel Kivuitu ECK found itself in the middle of a storm. The election was flawed and the EMB failed to establish the credibility of the tally process to satisfy all the parties and candidates.  Significant, is the post- election violence that almost plunged Kenya into civil war.  For the first time, Kenyans were indicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, displacement of populations amongst others. It was a manifestation of a broken system. This made Kenya to stop and reflect. Under the stewardship of President Mwai Kibaki and the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga lead Kenyans to a new constitutional  dispensation that was meant to inter alia get elections right. 

Through the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and the Act of parliament, there was a change of name of EMB, structured leadership and functions. Most important was method of appointment to ensure that the commissioners are professional, impartial and credible. This desire was however not achieved as Isaac Hasan Commission was again disbanded over controversy after 2013 general elections. Like the Kivuitu Commission and Moi’s electoral Commission, they were marred by allegations of bias, favourism and corruption. Again parliament through a joint parliamentary group lead by Sen. Orengo and Sen. Murungi amended the law and set the stage for a new Electoral Commission. Kenya has however remained at the same place as the Chebukati-lead Commission was responsible for bangling the 2017 presidential election. They have played out their bias in the public gallery. The Commission and the secretariat have been at odds over corruption allegations and with their days are numbered.

So, why is Kenya revolving around the same place with regards to EMBs? If history is to go by, Kenya’s election managers seem to have a life expectancy of five years. This kills stability and institutionalization of elections. Time has moved and with it revolution of the law, however, there is need to rebuild the IEBC and to find stability.  Which is the route for this?

Making the Appointment of Commissioners an Apolitical Process

There is one common denominator in all the EMBs since the conception of elections in Kenya. They are highly politicized. The politicians from the Government, opposition or parliament always wants to manipulate or influence the process of appointment of officers or commissioners of the EMBs and the working of the commission.. Inspite of the law advocating for a competitive and professional process in appointment of commissioners, the politicians still find a way to influence who is appointed. This means that although Kenya seems to have moved on, the mentality is that of the IPPG in 1997. This leads to a short lifespan for the commissioners as politicians interests are often short lived. In addition to this, are the wrangles and bias within the commissioners as a result of loyalties to different parties and politician as manifested by the present IEBC.  One solution for this is to kick or minimize political influence. Public participation and Kenyans owning the process may also help in changing things and getting people who are professional as well as neutral in the commission. The other proposal has been to get foreigners-especially for the leadership- who have the education and experience to run election in Kenya. Given that they are foreigners, they may not owe allegiance to the politicians and hence neutrality and impartiality.  

Legal and Legislative Framework for the EMB

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 promulgated in the backdrop of the 2007 post-election violence was meant to provide principles and a road map to free, fair, credible and verifiable election processes. The IEBC is established in article 88 of the supreme law. The law is elaborate on the procedures of appointment and the functions of the commissioners.

The IEBC Act No. 9 of 2011 further elaborates on function and composition of the commissioners. There is however, need to amend the law to synchronize the functions of the secretariat and the commission. Another area of amendments could be section 30 of the IEBC Act. Those who run elections in Kenya need to be held personally responsible when elections go wrong. If this is done, future leaders will not take election management as a joke as they presently do. There may be also amendments with regards to the structure of IEBC. The rationale for this is if there is need to change, then, change of personnel only is not sufficient.   

Civic and Political Education for Kenyans  

Developing a political culture which is bread by civic education may help in building a stable IEBC. Kenyans need to understand the pivotal role played by the IEBC. There is need to understand the relationship between democratic elections, leadership, development and the needs of the people. Kenyans need also to understand the working of IEBC and the avenues for challenge in the event of a complaint. Civic and political education may also help Kenyans to deal with the ghost of the past. Elections officials should be protected from intimidation and violence and not at the mercy of politicians. It is ok to play the tune of our favorite politicians and support or condemn the IEBC whenever it is relevant, however,  that will not help Kenya institutionalize elections   

The IEBC and the Other Agencies

The IEBC should be aided by the other Government agencies. One of the major reasons for their failure is that they are always looked at in isolation. Other than the police and the ministry of interior, the office of the Attorney needs to be very active to ensure that EMB’s always abide by the law. The Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution has a role to ensure that those who commit electoral offences are convicted, inclusive of senior election officers.    

In conclusion, it is important to rebuild the IEBC. It may be important for President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Rt. Hon. Raila Amollo Odinga, along with parliament to critically look at these issues and perhaps consider change of tact and philosophy when dealing with IEBC

By

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’Advocate

CHUFF FROM THE GRAIN: A STEP INTO THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT DISCOURSE IN KENYA

CHUFF FROM THE GRAIN:  A STEP INTO THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT DISCOURSE IN KENYA

While it is true that most constitutional amendments and/or legal milestones are often conceptualized as a political process, it is not always just politics. The need for constitutional amendments as amendment of any law thereof is born out of the fact that societies evolve and change. Law as a normative factor must therefore serve the needs of the times. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere liked countries to growing babies and Constitutions to babies’ clothes. He therefore opined that as babies grow, it is only practical that they get bigger clothes. This must however be distinguished from political play. Constitutional amendment process need not be left at the whimps of the politicians as they are often myopic and their game is all about power.

In Kenya, the Independence Constitution was amended a couple a times in a bid to expand the democratic and political space. It is however important to remember that the first of these amendments were made with intentions to create an imperial and centralized presidency. This is what happens when you leave it for politicians as Kenya did. The Constitution (2010) is however different. It was created as a people centered document with referenda or popular initiative as a means to change or amend the most significant parts of the law. This has not deterred the current political debate on constitutional amendments.  There are politicians who believe that Kenya has evolve and needs change on one side, and those who see the call for referendum an unnecessary distraction at a time for work and economic growth. This article doesn’t think these calls are a waste of time, but there is  need to separate  the grain from the chuff, thus, areas  that  need amendments and areas that may not need right now

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is based on a presidential system. The president is inter alia the Head of State, Head of Government and Commander -in- Chief of the Defense Forces as stipulated in article 131 of the supreme law. Furthermore, article 132 of the Constitution of Kenya sets out the functions of the President to include, submitting reports to Parliament on different issues.  Parliament ought to be independent pursuant to article 95 and 96 of the Constitution 2010; however, Jubilee Party tyranny of numbers has led to questions as the opposition’s ability to offer alternative leadership

There are number of Constitutional amendments that have been proposed in this regards. One of these proposals is a Rotational Presidency System to replace the Presidential System. The essence of this is the argument that the Executive as currently constituted is thine and not as inclusive as required. Under this proposed system, the people chose a few people and they take turns in leading as President, while the rest are Cabinet Secretary.  If the Presidency is to be rotated, it may take away the sting from the position. Moreover, all Kenyans will own it as opposed to a few tribes. The proponents of this proposal insist that Rotational Presidency may save Kenya from periodic divisive election, characterized by violence, loss of property and life.  There are more questions with this proposal as Rotational Presidency takes direct power from the people for a long time. The criteria for picking or electing those who will be rotated is not so clear, most likely it will be for the elite. There is also no guarantee that these elected elite will not hold the Government ransom or begin internal wars. This system of Government also makes it hard to do checks and balances as there is no opposition

The Other proposal is to change Government from a Presidential System to a Pure parliamentary System, where instead of a President there is an Executive Prime Minister as head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. Under the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the President and the rest of the Cabinet is subject to very little Parliamentary scrutiny pursuant to article 132(1) c and 152(3) of the Constitution of Kenya. The proponents of this system say it is the most ideal for a multi-cultural society like Kenya. This system however means that the Parliament rather than the people. Other than politics, as lawyers, the difference between a presidential and a parliamentary system is as good as the people managing the system.

There is also a proposal to expand the Executive and introduce the Office of the Prime Minister and two Deputies, in addition to, the President and his Deputy. This system anticipates sharing of Executive power between the President and the Prime Minister. Uganda and Tanzania are prominent for this system save for the design of the system. The opponents of this proposal are concern over a blotted Executive. If this is to be added the two-tier legislature the questions of the big wage bill is still with Kenyans.

There is also no Guarantee that a bloated Executive will solve the problem of inclusivity. The only thing one can be sure is this system will benefit the elite.

Lastly, there is a proposal fronted by the former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga. He feels that the Constitution needs to be amended to introduce a third tier of devolution. Odinga is seeking to make counties economically viable by going back to the fourteen economic blocs as proposed by the Bomas draft. This means that Kenya will have to build devolution upwards as well as downwards While Odinga’s intentions are noble, the ethnic politics within the counties may not give way for such amendments. There is so much ethnic colonization of Counties in Kenya. The other is the public wage bill as well as blotted elections which is already an issue

There are areas that need amendment in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Some of these have been tested by the system over the ten years after the promulgation of the Constitution 2010. These are areas where the Constitution has remained silent when confronted. As much as the  Supreme Court is equipped to give advisory opinion under article 163(6), there is need to reconcile these with the law hence amendments.

 Article 1 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 gives sovereign power to the people of Kenya. This can be exercised directly or indirectly. When it comes to indirect exercise, it is clear, as Kenya the subsequent chapters that are elaborate on representation and separation of powers. The silence of the law is loud with regards with direct exercise of sovereign power. The law gives citizens a choice, but to what extend can they exercise these powers directly? Do citizens in Kenya really have a choice to reject the institutions and exercise the sovereign power? This provision in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, need to be amended so as to take away the ambiguity.

The other area that may require amendments is articles 93 and 96 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The constitution was built on a triple legislative structure. They include, National Assembly, the Senate and the County Assemblies. This has created a lot of wrangles, double work and a huge wag bill. The Senate was created so as to develop legislation for checks and balances and to enable devolution. This is work that should have been given a time limit as Kenya strengthens the County assemblies. As much as scrapping of the Senate may  be a very contentious issue, it may save the wage bill and devolution will make more sense  when and if the County assemblies are strengthened in terms of finances, professional capacity, the breath of legislation and the economic viability  of the Counties. If this is to be done, there may also be need to amend the enabling Acts of Parliament. 

Related to this is the position of the women representative. There are proposal to the effect that it should be scrapped off. The reality so far is that as much the position helps in getting to Gender parity, there is very little they can do little without a fund. The same story is told of the Members of Parliament who represent special group. Scrapping these off gives Kenya an opportunity to rethink representation. The idea of representation today is just for show and it doesn’t help in transforming the Kenyan society. 

Election matters in Kenya have also revealed a lot of gabs in the law. The questions of repeat election, pursuant to article 140, need to enumerate so as to bring clarity. There are other areas that may need clarity such as what needs to happen when a candidate withdraws from a presidential race. There have also been calls to extend the timelines for determination of Presidential petitions.

Lastly, there are the questions of assumption of office of Deputy Governors in the event of death or incapacity. The Constitution 2010 in article 182(2) set the Deputy Governor to take over for the rest of the term in the event of a vacancy. This provision is seen as cheating the voters especially in the event of death and where it takes place in the beginning of the term. This article may be amended to provide proportionality, to say that the Deputy Governor is to take over when the Governor has spent about half their term.

By;

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’Advocate