Kenya president signs new constitution into law

Kenya president signs new constitution into law

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[JURIST] Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] signed a new constitution [text, PDF] into law Friday as part of a reform movement aimed at curbing vast presidential powers. Kenya’s new constitution includes numerous checks on presidential authority [AP report], among which are the creation of a supreme court and senate. The constitution also requires reforms [Guardian report] to the nation’s judiciary and land tenure system and improvements in civil rights and women’s representation. The government is now expected to start implementing the new constitution, which could take as long as five years. This document has been received as one of the most significant events in Kenya since its independence.

The new constitution was approved [JURIST report] by popular referendum earlier this month. Voting on the constitution took place amid concerns that high turnout and heated debate over the referendum could cause a repeat of the violence seen during the country’s presidential election [JURIST report] in 2007. The creation of a new constitution was part of a power-sharing agreement [JURIST report] reached in 2009 between Kibaki and opposition leader Prime Minister Raila Odinga [official website] that brought to an end the civil unrest that followed the contested election. Election officials sought to make the referendum as inclusive and peaceful as possible by allowing prisoners to vote and prosecuting those who suggested violence in reaction to the changes [JURIST reports] under hate speech laws.