August 27, 2010: The day Kenya promulgated new Constitution

When the late President Mwai Kibaki led the nation in promulgation of the 2010 Constitution at the Uhuru Park grounds. [File, Standard]

From early in the cool grey morning thousands of Kenyans were walking to Uhuru Park in the capital city. Long before the scheduled start of the occasion the grounds were full, and still filling. It was August 27th 2010.

The nation was there in person and before screens countrywide, to witness the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Diplomats were seated in good time in dutiful rows, awaiting the invited Heads of State and Government to take the front row.

They were escorted by Cabinet Ministers to their seats. Finally, everyone stood as President Mwai Kibaki drove into the park.

It was the triumphant victory of the sacrifice, determination and political clarity of Kenyans to rebuild a better future, a safer future for 'the living and the unborn', the generations to come.

And we were there to print out the blueprint of that future. After prayers and preliminaries, the moment was reached. The notice of the Promulgation was read.

Then within the hushed breath of millions, President Kibaki signed the Promulgation. A huge joyous roar rose as President Kibaki presented the sealed document high in the air to the whole nation. It was the moment also, amid the loud joyful sounds, to pay, in silence, a tribute to those who had given up their lives in the long struggle of 30 years to win this one step; the moment also to draw up the cost: of the uncounted shot dead by the police who the past rulers used as an army against their own people; of the many sent into wrongful detention without trial; of those subjected to false criminal trials and evilly imprisoned; of those deliberately impoverished.

All of which wrongs, the new Constitution had brought to an end; or had brought fresh or stronger safeguards against their return. We were trying to make the Kenya we had clearly said in the Referendum of a few weeks earlier, that we wanted - by an overwhelming majority.

There were those who in that Referendum had strenuously opposed the new Constitution. They are now in power. To come to power they have relied on that same Constitution they had denied.

And they still rely on that same denied law to exercise and justify their use and retention of violent power against unarmed Kenyans peaceably exercising their rights enshrined in the same Constitution.

Those who so strenuously opposed the Constitution have a duty imposed upon them by their own history. It is the duty to prove that they can be trusted in the implementation of the Constitution they opposed.

And to prove they have not forfeited the trust of that overwhelming majority of Kenyans. This is particularly so when there is a conflict of interest between what the Constitution provides and what they feel is in their own interest to keep power or enrich themselves or settle old political scores or wrongly favour only some against other deserving Kenyans. It is because their past has generated that doubt.

They have to take positive steps to establish trust. They have to abide by both the express rules and the express values set out in every chapter in the Constitution. They are ignoring the values. They have to speak the language of the Constitution.

Not the language of petty village vendettas. The regularly demeaning quality of recent public speeches, attacks, warnings, mixed with hopelessly error-strewn ideas about governance, shame the country.

Talking the language of the Constitution keeps us in the necessary habit of vision. Constitutional talk cannot be only for show. They have to walk those words. Even when it is inconvenient to them.

Not to create further doubts by pulling persons out of their homes and beating them up, visibly illegally, or by the transfer of judges whose judicial orders they may not like.

Such talk and conduct are not worthy of this great nation, made up of all of us with flaws, but also of great unpublicised givers of care and assistance to each other, and also of those with the most public achievements of the highest level, winning national and world-wide accolades.

This is a constitution of good manners to each other. Those who are in office have obtained constitutional governance not personal one-man-rule. Therefore, they have to rule in daily conformity with this Constitution we promulgated on August 27th 2010.

The writer is a senior counsel