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Representation Under the New Constitution




Fair. Representative. Inclusive.




One of the key promises in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (CoK 2010), is to deliver equitable and inclusive outcomes of representation for the people of Kenya - both in local and national affairs. These changes are part of far-reaching social and political transformations designed to give an effective voice and say to every person, group, and region in the Country.


In order to achieve basic levels of inclusive representation for all, the Country adopted a new framework of devolved governments under 47 Counties. Basically, these new localised forms of representation were introduced to ensure fair and equitable representation of all peoples within a County's legislative and executive arms of government; strategically, equitable representation of the County among its peers in the wider scheme of things was also assured in the CoK 2010; and thirdly, national representation of every people and group at the national level in both the legislative and executive arms of national government was abundantly provided.


To meet these stated objectives of better and enhanced representation, two things happened. First, traditional geographic areas of representation in most parts of the country were refined and reconstituted by the COK 2010 based on population, geography, urbanization, community interests, historical, economic and cultural ties, and means of communication. These were also somehow squeezed to fit within the County framework so that no constituencies cut across Counties. It followed that 80 additional geographical electoral areas were created to provide for a total of 290 constituencies in the National Assembly, up from 210. Additionally, a new set of 47 geographical constituencies similarly came into being by way of the new Counties and are represented in the new Senate.
Secondly, and as part of affirmative action, "virtual" electoral areas were created such that, today, both Houses of the Parliament of Kenya, have significant numbers of special members representing Women, Youth, Persons with Disabilities, Workers, Minority Ethnic and Racial Minorities, Religious and other Special Groups.



The history of electoral representation in Kenya before and after independence has been characterised by several factors. Top on the list of those factors has been the twin simultaneous problems of over-representation and under-representation.

This form of skewed representation partly owed its existence and perpetuation on a faulty and inadequate independence constitution. For example, in more than 45 years after independence, no serious efforts were made to reform the old Constitution to ensure effective inclusion and participation of minority groups. What we had was an electoral system based on the first-past-the-post candidate and which often produced winners who could hardly muster more than 30% of the votes cast at an electoral area leading to the phenomenon of "wasted votes" cast for the other candidates. While this was going on, frequent gerrymandering by the political class entrenched political power and loyalty to a select few leading to the marginalisation of the rest of Kenya. Minority communities were hardly considered or effectively empowered either by way of affirmative electoral action or legislation for special seats or nominations to Parliament until 2010.

To be fair, the establishment of the First Senate at independence out of the negotiations at the Lancaster House conferences in London represented a noble attempt at addressing the issue of representation in our history. Its scope was narrow however, in that it mainly attempted to address ethnic, racial, and regional disparities in representation, and nothing more. As history would have it, this Senate hardly lasted for more than 3 years and was abolished as the political elite sought to concentrate power at the center.



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