Know your country: Key civic facts about Kenya

The facts below about Kenya are stated under chapter 2 of the Constitution of 2010. Kenya is a sovereign multi-party democratic state.  Sovereignty refers to the autonomy of a country, in such a way that no other country in the world is warranted to interfere in its matters without state invitation. More so, sovereignty is an international law principle which guarantees the independence of every country in such a way that every country which does not respect the sovereignty of another country, say by invading it, or by interfering with the other country’s domestic affairs, is considered to be in breach of international law. For example, Russia will be said to have violated the sovereignty of the United States of America when it is conclusively established that she interfered in the latter’s presidential election.

The country is divided into 47 counties which are all distinct from and interdependent on the national government. To facilitate the smooth running of county governments, every state organ is tasked to ensure reasonable access of its services in all parts of the country. The division of the country into 47 countries is for devolution of government power, authority and resources to a lower level. For example, every county is said to have a referral hospital which is a change from the time before devolution when the country had one national referral hospital. Such an arrangement makes it easier for the people to access medical care, more jobs are created, and there is a reduction in the mortality rate, and increase in life expectancy and a general improvement in household incomes.

Kiswahili is the national language, and the official languages are Kiswahili and English. In relation to languages, the state is obliged to:

  1. promote and protect the diversity of language of the people of Kenya; and
  2. promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign language, Braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities.

The relevance of a national language is that it fosters unity across the country because it is often said that a nation that speaks one language is one nation, indeed. One Kenya, One People.

Kenya does not have a state religion. The constitution also guarantees freedom of worship. Modern democracies do not usually adopt state religions because if a religion is adopted by the state, it may seem that the people have been stripped of their right to practice any faith or creed or religion. Religion, like tribe is a divisive factor and the non-adoption of a state religion helps to do away with possible cases of discrimination on the basis of religion.

The national symbols are—

  1. the national flag;
  2. the national anthem;
  3. the coat of arms; and
  4. the public seal.

National symbols must be respected. For example, when the national anthem is being sung, all people must stand to attention and not move about aimlessly, or if they are unable to stand, they must raise their right arm, straight. The national days are Madaraka Day, to be observed on 1st June; Mashujaa Day, to be observed on 20th October; and Jamhuri Day, to be observed on 12th December.  As law, a national day is a public holiday. Madaraka day is a celebration of the independence of the country from the British colonial rule. Mashujaa day is a celebration of the all those who have contributed to the well-being of the nation, the heroes of the country: from those who fought for independence from the Bristish under the Mau Mau Rebellion to those who still make a significant contribution to the social, economic and political welfare of the people of Kenya. It is a heroes day. Jamhuri day is the celebration of the day the country became an independent republic, free from all colonial overtones. It is almost like Madaraka day, but they are easily distinguishable.

The national values and principles of governance as provided under the constitution bind all state organs, state officers, public officers and all persons. They are relevant when:

Applying or interpreting the Constitution; enacting, applying or interpreting any law; or making or implementing public policy decisions.

National values and principles of governance include—

  1. patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people;
  2. human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised;
  3. good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and
  4. sustainable development.

The people of Kenya must therefore love their country, and serve it. The country must practice democracy, full time: rule of law, checks and balances, separation of powers; and all people in Kenya must be treated with dignity. Their human rights as stated under the Bill of Rights are inherent and not given by the state. As such the people must treat each other with dignity, there must be inclusiveness (to address historical injustices) and all people are equal. Public officials must deliver their duties with integrity, and must account for the resources they manage. Pursuant to this, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission though often compromised is in place to bring public officials to book and account. Sustainable development is an environmental concept that requires the current generation to fully utilize the nations natural resources such as lakes, rivers, minerals in the ground and others but putting in consideration the fact that the generation on future must be able to utilize the same resources too. Sustainable development is a call for utilization of national resources for the benefit of posterity. Noncompliance with these national values is tantamount to breach of the constitution. Chapter six of the constitution further breaks down these values and sets the record straight in terms of the qualities required from a public officer.

Under the constitution, the State is required to:

  1. promote all forms of national and cultural expression through literature, the arts, traditional celebrations, science, communication, information, mass media, publications, libraries and other cultural heritage;
  2. recognise the role of science and indigenous technologies in the development of the nation; and
  3. promote the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.

The above can only be done through the organs of the states. The executive must implement policies which are in line with the above, the judiciary must decide cases that favour the promotion of culture, the advancement of science and those that conserve our natural heritage, and parliament must enact legislation meant to ensure that communities receive compensation or royalties for the use of their cultures and cultural heritage; and those recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya.


This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 1 of June 2nd, 2017

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