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Kenya -- Government

Jomo Kenyatta June 1963 August 1978;
Daniel Torotich arap Moi August 1978 present.

Kenya has been governed under a series of constitutions over the last forty years. Its first constitution originated in a constitutional conference held in London in early 1962, when Kenya was still a colony administered by a governor general. The goal of the 1962 conference had been to find agreement on constitutional principles under which Kenya would be granted its independence.

The major issue before the conference was that of federalism. Pro-federalists supported the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), a minority party that appealed to coastal peoples, the Kalenjin, part of the Luhya, and half of the Kamba. Their support of federalism stemmed from a fear that these groups would be dominated by larger ethnic groups. The Kenyan African National Union (KANU) majority, composed of Kikuyu (Kenyatta's ethnic group), Luo, many Kamba, and other ethnic groups, advocated a centralized form of government. The British government tended to support KANU in this matter. Amid controversy, the conference drew up a document entitled "Framework (of the Kenya) Constitution," which was incorporated into the later Constitution of Kenya of 1963, later known as the Independence Constitution. This 1962 constitution called for a parliamentary system that mandated a government responsible to parliament, a bicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and a strong bill of rights. KANU's victory in the general election of May 1963 greatly restricted any hope of a more federalist form of government.

The constitution inaugurated by political independence in 1963 was a highly detailed document of over 200 pages. It called for the retention of the monarchy, a parliamentary system, and strong regional governments. The Republican Constitution that went into effect on December 12, 1964 was named the Amended Independence Constitution[1] .

Kenya's present constitution dates from the formation of the republic. It draws heavily on English law. It has been amended over 30 times. Amendments require a two-thirds majority in the unicameral National Assembly, which currently consists of 188 directly elected members and another 12 members nominated by the majority, together with the speaker and the attorney general. The constitution endows the president with extensive power and has not yet been adapted to multiparty politics. The president can declare states of emergency and security zones, as well as deny fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution, including those of assembly and relocation.[2]

[1] Kaplan, Irving & 1976. Area Handbook for Kenya, Second Ed., U.S.

Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C. pp. 189-91.

[2] The Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998, Country Profile. Kenya. The Unit:

London, pp. 6-7.

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