Virtual Kollage: The main features of the 1963 independent constitution of Kenya

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The main features of the 1963 independent constitution of Kenya


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THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE INDEPENDENT CONSTITUTION OF KENYA
Introduction
Kenya became independent on 12th December, 1963. Earlier in 1962, Jomo Kenyatta was released from incarceration to become the country’s first Prime Minister. When Kenya gained independence, a new constitution came into effect, marking the end of absolute British domination in the east African enclave.

FEATURES OF THE 1963 INDEPENDENT CONSTITUTION
Federal system of government
One of the features of the independent constitution of Kenya was the adoption of a federal system of government; this was referred to in the local parlance as “Majimbo”. The entire country was divided into six regions and each region was granted enormous powers under the constitution.

The National Assembly
The constitution made provisions for the setting up of a National Assembly. The National Assembly was the main legislature of the land and one of its main functions was to make laws for the administration of the country and to approve treaties, to mention but a few.

Bicameral Legislature
The constitution provided for a bicameral legislative system of government. In other words, the constitution made provisions for the creation of two houses of legislature. In effect, there was created a Senate and a House of representatives. The Senate was made up 41 members and the House of Representatives was made up of 117 members.

Double Executive
Another feature of the independent constitution was that it made room for a dual executive. There was the position of the Head of Government with the designation of a Prime Minister and this position was occupied by Mr. Jomo Kenyatta. There was also the position of the Head of State which was occupied by the Queen of England Elizabeth II. However, she was resident in London so she had to be represented by a Governor-General in the person of Malcolm MacDonald.

Judiciary
The constitution made provision for the establishment of an impartial and independent judiciary. Under the constitution, a Supreme Court was created and given unlimited jurisdiction over everybody residing in the territorial confinements of the country in criminal and civil disputes. There was no discrimination in terms of race or ethnicity. The constitution provided that a Court of Appeal and  Kadhi's court be established.

Minority interests
At the time of independent, there were several Asians and Europeans in Kenya. After the reigns of political affairs was handed over to the Kenyans, the minority groups needed to be protected against any possible reprisals from the locals in reaction to excesses of British colonial policies. The constitution therefore made provisions for the Europeans to be protected by the constitution. In addition, the Asians, who were also in the minority, were offered protection under the constitution.

Independent Judiciary
The constitution provided for an independent and impartial judiciary to handle issues of justice. The judiciary was made up of a hierarchy of courts comprising lower and upper courts. Their main function was the settlement of disputes and the administration of justice for all.

Protection of Human Rights
A provision was made for the protection of the Fundamental Human Rights of all living in Kenya. This provision was referred to as the Bill of Rights and under it, the rights and freedoms of all the citizens of Kenya were catered for.

SOME LIMITATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION
Limited independence
Though Kenya was granted a considerable level of independence, the country was still under the vestiges of colonial rule. Independence was not yet absolute. The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II was still the Head of State, represented by Governor-General Malcolm MacDonald.


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