NAIROBI, Kenya -- In Kenya, a country with a history of institutionalized impunity for politicians, the attempt last week by parliament to pass legislation seemingly designed to safeguard incumbency might be considered par for the course. The proposed bill, which among other things mandated that members of parliament have university degrees, highlighted the challenges facing political reform efforts two years after the passage of what was hailed as arguably the most progressive constitution on the continent.
Significantly, however, the move by parliament was greeted with popular outrage and criticized by media outlets and prominent officials alike. Sensing the political fallout, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga both labeled the amendments an infringement on Kenya’s constitutional integrity and vowed to prevent passage.
The popular awareness and high-level resistance reflect changing times in Kenya, as the country follows up its 2010 constitution with associated political and judicial reforms.