Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities
Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens under the Constitution
Kenya’s sovereign power is vested in its citizens. They exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.
Every person has the right to lodge a case in court if a right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights is denied, violated or threatened.
Every person is entitled to the following rights and fundamental freedoms:
- Right to life;
- The right to equality, equal protection and equal benefit in law;
- Human dignity;
- Freedom and security;
- Protection from slavery, servitude & forced labour;
- Freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion;
- Freedom of expression;
- Freedom of the media;
- Right of access to information;
- Freedom of association;
- Right of assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition;
- Political rights;
- Freedom of movement and residence;
- Protection of right to property;
- Fair labour practices;
- Right to a clean and healthy environment;
- Right to economic and social rights (health, housing, food, water, social security & education)
- Right to use of language and culture of one’s preference;
- Consumer rights;
- Fair administrative action;
- Right of access to justice; and
- Right to a fair hearing.
Kenyans have an obligation to ensure people serving in the independent Commissions are properly vetted as they are tasked to protect the sovereignty of the people, ensure the State organs keep democratic values and principles and promote constitutionalism.
Members of the public have the right of access to parliamentary sittings and those of its committees and can give contributions.
The Executive authority (the Presidency) obtains its power from the citizens of Kenya and acts as empowered by the constitution.
The judiciary obtains its power from Kenyan citizens and acts through the courts and tribunals.
Alternative forms of dispute resolution including reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms are promoted provided they do not go against the Bill of Rights.
Devolution gives power of self-governance to the people and grants them opportunity for greater participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in decision making. It also recognizes the right of communities to manage their own affairs and further their development.
County assemblies are expected to conduct their business in an open manner and hold all their sittings and committee meetings in public.
All national security organs – the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the National Police Service (NPS) – are sub-ordinate to civilian authority.
Citizens have the right to propose an amendment to the constitution by popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters.
Every Kenyan has the right to start court proceedings, if the constitution has been contravened or is threatened with contravention.
Regardless of the presence of elected representatives:
Every citizen has an obligation to respect, uphold and defend Kenya’s sovereignty.
Citizens also have a responsibility to live out the national values and principles of: patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people.
They are to uphold human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized.
In addition, citizens should ensure good governance, integrity and accountability are upheld.
Every Kenyan has the responsibility to uphold the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights and to ensure they are observed in making social, economic and cultural policies.
Every person has a duty to cooperate with the State to protect and conserve the environment and the country’s natural resources and ensure sustainable development is carried out.
Citizens are expected to monitor how state officers are functioning to ensure the guiding principles of leadership and integrity are respected and maintained. The guiding principles include:
- Selection based on personal integrity, competence and suitability or election in a free and fair election;
- Objectivity and impartiality in decision making and in ensuring decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism and other improper practices;
- Selfless service based on public interest is maintained;
- Accountability to the public for decisions and actions; and
- Discipline and commitment in service to the people.
Citizens should promote the realization of the principles of the electoral system. The electoral system principles include:
a) Freedom of citizens to exercise their political rights;
b) Not a more than two thirds of the members of the elective public bodies shall be of the same gender;
c) Fair representation of persons with disabilities;
d) Universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of vote; and
e) Free and fair elections which are:
- By secret ballot;
- Free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption;
- Conducted by an independent body;
- Transparent; and
- Administered in an impartial neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable manner.
Adult Kenyans are expected to vote the right people to office by participating in elections.
The electorate has the right and responsibility to recall their Member of Parliament before the end of their term in office.
Citizens can also petition Parliament to consider matters within its authority and enact, amend or repeal legislation.
Citizens also have an obligation to ensure presidential candidates meet the qualifications for the post.
Kenyans have the responsibility to ensure Executive authority is exercised in a manner that serves them and for their well-being and benefit.
County assemblies should facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of the assembly including its committees.
Public participation in the public finance process is expected and the government has to maintain openness and accountability through the structure to promote an equitable society.
Members of the public must be involved in the public-service policymaking process.
The public must also hold all public service institutions accountable for their work.
Citizens have to ensure the government protects its people rights and freedoms and the country against internal and external threats to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Citizens are obligated to ensure the constitution is interpreted in a manner that promotes its purposes, values and principles, advances rule of law, human rights and Bill of Rights, permits development of the law and contributes to good governance.