What is citizenship?
This refers to the legal right of a person to belong to a particular country. A Kenyan citizen is a person who has the legal right to belong, live and do freely all that has to do with their life in Kenya.
BECOMING A KENYAN CITIZEN
Ways in which Kenyan citizenship can be acquired.
- By birth.
- By registration.
Citizenship by birth
The following are the Ways through which citizenship by birth is acquired in Kenya.
- A person is a citizen by birth if on the day of the person’s birth, whether or not the person is born in Kenya, either the mother or father of the person is a citizen.
- A child found in Kenya who is, or appears to be, less than eight years of age, and whose nationality and parents are not known, is presumed to be a citizen by birth.
- A person who is a Kenyan citizen by birth and who has ceased to be a Kenyan citizen because the person acquired citizenship of another country, is entitled on application to regain Kenyan citizenship.
Citizenship by registration
Conditions for qualification to apply for Citizenship by registration are as follows:
- If a person has been married to a Kenyan citizen for a period of at least seven years.
- If A person who has been lawfully resident in Kenya for a continuous period of at least seven years applies to be registered.
- If a child who is not a citizen, is adopted by a citizen and applies to be registered.
- Citizenship may be granted to individuals who are citizens of other countries that allow Kenyans citizenship in their countries.
Revocation of citizenship
The revocation of citizenship by registration may happen under the following circumstances.
- If a person acquired citizenship by fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact.
- If the person has, during any war in which Kenya was engaged, unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or been engaged in or associated with any business that was knowingly carried on in such a manner as to assist an enemy in that war.
- If the person has, within five years after registration, been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or longer.
- If a person has, at any time after registration, been convicted of treason, or of an offence for which a penalty of at least seven years imprisonment may be imposed.
Citizenship by birth may be revoked under the following circumstance
- If the citizenship was acquired by fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact by any person.
- If the nationality or parentage of the person becomes known, and reveals that the person was a citizen of another country.
- If the age of the person becomes known, and reveals that the person was older than eight years when found in Kenya.
The concept of “Dual citizenship”.
A citizen by birth does not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country.
Rights and responsibilities of a Kenyan citizen
Human rights refers to the accepted principles of fairness and justice- or the universal moral rights that belong equally to all people in their capacity as human beings.
Components of human rights
Every human right must fulfill these three fundamental conditions;
- Condition of life, which is necessary for development of human personality
- A Social character (since it presupposes existence of other members of the society)
- It must be enjoyed equally by all members of the society.
The constitution of Kenya contains the rights of the individuals and special groups such as children, the youth and people with disabilities. It gives the state the responsibility of guaranteeing these rights. The rights are contained in chapter 4 of the current constitution under the bill of rights. This chapter is not merely an integral part of the constitution of Kenya; it is the fundamental basis for the establishment of the state. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are recognized and protected in the constitution because they preserve the dignity of individuals and communities, and promote social justice
The rights and freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights
1. Right to life
Life begins at conception and no child should be deprived of life deliberately. Abortion is not therefore permitted unless occasioned by the need for emergency treatment or life of the mother is in danger. People who attempt to commit suicide are also punishable on the strength of their right
Limitations of the right to life
- A court of law can sentence one to death if found guilty of an offence punishable by death
Instances when the right to life may be taken away
- When one is defending one’s life or country as is the case during war.
- When defending one’s property against violent attack.
- When a law enforcement officer’s life is endangered, for example when apprehending armed criminals.
2. Equality and freedom from discrimination
Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. This means that both men and women are equal before the law. Any form of discrimination is illegal and is prohibited in the constitution.
3. Human dignity
Every person’s dignity should be respected and protected. One must not ridicule or embarrass other members of society.
4. Freedom and security of a person
This right protects a person from being detained without a good reason and without trial. No person will be subjected to physical or psychological torture, corporal punishment or cruel and inhuman treatment. Each citizen must also protect the freedom and security of others. It is unlawful for one to subject his or her spouse to either psychological or physical abuse.
5. Freedom from slavery¨ servitude and forced labour
No one should be held in servitude or slavery or perform forced labour. Every employer should treat his or her employees with dignity and not to force them to work.
6. Right to privacy
Every person has a right NOT to have him or herself, his or her property searched, or his or her possessions seized. Not revealing a person’s family or private affairs unnecessarily or private communications interfered with.
Exceptions to this right
The law allows police officers, tax inspectors and other government agents to search private homes or business premises for purpose of health inspection, tax collection or any other officially sanctioned reason.
7. Right to assembly¨ demonstration¨ picketing and petition
Every citizen has a right to assemble and participate in peaceful demonstrations and even present petitions to public authorities
Those demonstrating must not interfere with peace of others for example through harassment of motorists and property destruction.
8. Political rights
Every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right to form, or participate in forming, a political party and to participate in the activities of, a political party. Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections based on universal suffrage and the free` expression of the will of the electors for any elective public body or office. Every adult citizen has the right, without unreasonable restrictions, to be registered as a voter; to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum and to be a candidate for public office, or office within a political party and, if elected, to hold officer responsibility. It is illegal to prevent other people from participating in elections, buy votes etc.
9. Freedom of movement and residence
Citizens have a right to free movement and ownership of property in any part of the country.
Citizens should not obstruct efforts of any citizen to move freely and reside and own property in any part of the country.
10. Economic and social rights
Every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care. Every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation. Every person has the right to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality. Every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Every person has the right to social security. Every person has the right to education. A person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment. The State must provide appropriate social security to persons who are unable to support themselves and their dependants. Nb-it is on the strength of this right that the government is providing free primary education.
Every citizen must pay tax.
11. Consumer rights
Consumers have the right to goods and services of reasonable quality. Consumers have the right to the information necessary for them to gain full benefit from goods and services. Consumers have the right to the protection of their health, safety, and economic interests. Consumers have the right to compensation for loss or injury arising from defects in goods or services.
It is one’s responsibility to question the quality of goods and services being offered, to enable one get value for money. The traders and other service providers have a responsibility to provide quality goods and services to fellow citizens.
They should give truthful information when advertising their products.
12. Right to fair labour practices
Every worker has a right to fair labour practices like fair remuneration, reasonable working conditions, the right to join or practice in trade union activities and the right to go on strike. Every employer has a right to join an employers’ association and participate in its programmes and activities
One must respect the right to fair labour practices of one’s employees. Employees on the other hand must conduct themselves responsibly, even during strikes, to avoid causing physical injury to innocent people, or destroying property.
13. Right to clean and healthy environment
Every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment. It is our duty to ensure that the environment is protected for the benefit of present and future generations. The following are the obligations set by the government in order to achieve a clean and healthy environment:
- Ensure sustainable exploitation, utilization, management and conservation of the environment
- Work to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least ten percent of the land area of Kenya.
- Encourage public participation in management, protection and conservation of the environment.
- Establish systems of environmental impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment.
- Eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment.
- Utilize the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the people of Kenya.
- Protect and enhance intellectual property and indigenous knowledge of biodiversity and the genetic resources of the communities.
Every person has a responsibility to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development, and use of natural resources.
14. Freedom of conscience¨ religion¨ belief and opinion
Every person, whether individually or as a group, has freedom to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of day of worship. One cannot be denied employment or educational opportunity because of belonging to a particular religion or because of one’s belief or religion. A person cannot be forced to engage in any act that goes against his or her belief or religion.
Every citizen must be careful not to infringe upon this freedom
15. Freedom of expression
This guarantees all Kenyans the freedom to seek, receive or impart ideas or information. It also guarantees freedom of artistic creativity, academic freedom, and freedom to conduct scientific research
In the exercise of this freedom, everyone is called upon to respect the rights and reputation of others. He/she should not spread propaganda with the intention to provoke others to war or to violence. It is unlawful to engage in hate speech.
16. Freedom of media
The freedom and independence of the media is guaranteed. The state should not interfere with the media.
The media industry should report impartially and avoid inciting members of the public. The media should provide fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions
17. Access to information
Every person has a right to access information held by the state, or by others, which may be required for the protection of any right or fundamental freedom. The state is expected to make public any important information affecting the nation. Every person has a right to the correction or deletion of untrue or misleading information that affects the person.
A person should not misrepresent the information accessed, or misuse it for selfish gain. It is also illegal to sell public information for monetary gain.
18. Freedom of association
Every person has the right to form, join and participate in the activities of an association of any kind, provided that the association is not engaged in illegal activities, such as stealing or killing.
19. Protection of the right to property
Every person is entitled to own property either individually or as a group, in any part of the country. However the property has to be legally acquired. This right provides all Kenyans a fair opportunity to invest in property and thus, prosper.
All citizens must respect this right. It is unlawful for one to deprive a person of his or her property without good reason. The state, in acquiring privately owned property must ensure adequate compensation granted promptly and in full. The state has an obligation to respect the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.
20. Right to language and culture
Every person has the right to use a language, and embrace the culture of the person’s choice. Every person has the right to form or join cultural groups. Every person is also protected from being forced to join any such group. Each linguistic group is free to use their language, practice their culture, and form associations and other organs of the civil society. It is unacceptable to force another person to perform, observe or undergo any cultural practice or rite.
This right should not be used to undermine national unity. Other citizens should be allowed the freedom to enjoy diverse culture, including members of one’s own family.
21. Right to family
An adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties. Parties to such a union enjoy equal rights. Both parties have a responsibility to respect the rights of their spouses during marriage and even in the event of its dissolution. It is wrong to deny one’s spouse access to marital property after separation or divorce. The constitution also recognizes marriages conducted under traditional, religious, personal or family law. Marrying of underage persons and forced marriages are outlawed in the constitution.
22. Fair administrative action
Every person should be subjected to an efficient, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair administrative action. This promotes efficient administration in public offices
The officers of the state have a responsibility to accord every person fair administrative action. The right requires that a person be given written reasons for any administrative action that will adversely affect a right or freedom of the person.
23. Access to justice
Everybody should access justice and a reasonable fee will be charged to enhance this, if required. If this is not free, many people will not access justice which will continue to be a preserve of the rich people.
Everybody has a responsibility to facilitate fair play and access to justice for all. Any action aimed at blocking justice is unlawful and invites punishment. For example, shielding criminals or attempting to bribe law enforcement officers to prevent them from arresting a criminal. Aiding a criminal to evade arrest, concealing criminal acts; and lying to help culprits evade punishment.
24. Right of arrested persons
An arrested person has;
- The right to be informed promptly in a language that the person understands of the reason for arrest, the right to remain silent and he consequences of not remaining silent.
- The right to remain silent. – The right of a person to choose to talk or to remain silent.
- The right to communicate with an advocate and other persons whose assistance is necessary (freedom of speech with all those who will assist him or her in the case.)
- The right of not being compelled to make any confession or admission that could be used in evidence against the person.
- The right to be held separately from persons serving a sentence ( should not be held in prisons alongside those already convicted)
- To be brought to court as soon as reasonably possible, as but not later than twenty four hours after being arrested.
- To be charged or be informed of the reason for the extension of detention or release, at the first court appearance.
- To be released on bond or bail, on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons as to why one cannot be released.
25. Fair hearing
Every person has the right to have any dispute that can be resolved through a court hearing be resolved in such a manner that will accord him or her fair and public hearing. An accused person has the following rights;
- To be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
- To be informed of the charges.
- To have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence.
- To a public trial before a court.
- To have the trial begin and be concluded with few delays.
- To be present when being tried.
- To be represented by an advocate and be informed of this right immediately. Depending on the circumstances, the accused may be assigned an advocate by the state and at the state’s expense.
- To remain silent and not testify during the proceedings.
- To be informed in advance, of the evidence the prosecution intends to present, and to have reasonable access to that evidence.
- To challenge the evidence.
- To refuse to give self-incriminating evidence.
- To have the assistance of an interpreter if the accused person cannot understand the language used in the trial.
- If convicted, to appeal, or apply for review by a higher court.
- The accused person has the responsibility of obeying instructions of the court.
- They must behave well in court and outside the court
- They should respect the rights of the accusers as well as their advocates.
- Accused persons should behave as the law spells out while awaiting the verdict of the court. Whatever the verdict, they should abide by the law.
26. Rights of persons detained, held in custody or imprisoned.
A person, who is detained, held in custody or imprisoned under the law, retains all rights and fundamental freedoms in the bill of rights. Except those that are impractical and inapplicable under the circumstances. A person who is detained or held in custody is entitled for an order Habeas Corpus- This is a law that states that a person who has been arrested should not be kept in prison longer than a particular period of time unless a judge in a court has decided that it is right. It is the right of the person who is detained, held in custody or imprisoned to be treated in a humane manner.
All citizens have a responsibility to ensure that the rights of those detained, held in custody or imprisoned are respected. For example the judicial staff , prison staff and the police should respect the constitutional rights of all persons without discrimination.
Fundamental rights that might not be limited
- Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Freedom from slavery or servitude.
- The right to a fair trial.
- The right to an order of habeas corpus
Rights enjoyed by Children in Kenya
- Every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth
- Every child has the right to free and compulsory basic education.
- Every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter and health care.
- Every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour.
- Every child has the right to parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child, whether they are married to each other or not.
- Every child has the right not to be detained, except as a measure of last resort, and when detained, to be held for the shortest appropriate period of time.
- Every child has the right to separate from adults and in conditions that take account of the child’s sex and age.
- Every child has the right to a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
Rights enjoyed by Persons with disabilities in Kenya
- A person with any disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning.
- A person with any disability is entitled to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person.
- A person with any disability is entitled to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information.
- A person with any disability is entitled to use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication.
- A person with any disability is entitled to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
Rights of the Youth in Kenya
- Right to access relevant education and training.
- Right to have opportunities to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life.
- Right to access employment.
- Youths are protected from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.
Rights of Minorities and marginalized groups in Kenya
- Minorities and marginalized groups have the right to participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life.
- Minorities and marginalized groups have the right to be provided special opportunities in educational and economic fields.
- Minorities and marginalized groups have the right to be provided special opportunities for access to employment.
- Minorities and marginalized groups have the right to develop their cultural values, languages and practices.
- Minorities and marginalized groups have the right to reasonable access to water, health services and infrastructure.
Rights of older members of society in Kenya
- Right to fully participate in the affairs of society.
- Right to pursue their personal development.
- Right to live in dignity and respect and be free from abuse.
- Right to receive reasonable care and assistance from their family and the State.
Circumstances, which may force the Kenya government to limit the freedoms and rights of an individual.
- Conviction of murder by a court of law limits the right to life
- When planning for a criminal activity one loses the freedom of movement/liberty
- When government develops a place one loses the freedom to own property
- Freedom of worship is denied if one uses it to undermine the government /create disunity
- Freedom of assembly can be limited if internal security is threatened
- Personal liberty can be denied if one has an infectious disease e.g. rift valley fever
Other responsibilities of a citizen
- Every person has a responsibility to contribute to positive development in the country by working hard and honestly, irrespective of the type of work or profession one is in.
- Every citizen is expected to participate in the democratic process. One has the moral responsibility to vote and even present him/herself to be voted for provided he/she fulfils all the requirements of the position.
- A responsible citizen should actively contribute views on matters affecting the community. This includes taking Part in national debates.
- A responsible citizen must be mindful of other peoples’ welfare. For example guiding visitors, assisting the disabled, the aged, children, as well as the less fortunate members of the society in ways in which they need the assistance.
- A good citizen should report law breakers, and even those suspected of having intentions to break the law to the relevant authorities.
- A responsible citizen should ensure proper utilization of public and private facilities including toilets, water points, post offices, public telephone Booths etc.
- A responsible citizen must maintain high moral and ethical standards. One must refrain from telling lies.
Values of good citizenship
Values and principles of governance in Kenya
- Patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people.
- Human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, nondiscrimination and protection of the marginalized.
- Good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.
- Sustainable development.
Values of good citizenship
- A good citizen has a duty to be patriotic to the country. He/she should be ready to place the interests of the country above one’s own selfish interests. One should volunteer for a national cause, for example engaging in freedom from hunger walk, helping victims of disasters, volunteering to help the country in times of war and using talents such a sports and music achieve personal goals and to promote the country.
- A good citizen must take part in activities that foster national unity including economic activities such as agriculture and trade which boost the economy.
- A good citizen participates in democratic process either by volunteering themselves to be elected, or by taking part in electing of leaders at national or county levels.
- A good citizen maintains and protects human dignity. He/she has an obligation to dissuade people from engaging in acts that deprive others of their human dignity such as mob justice.
- A good citizen observes equity by respecting the interests of every citizen, regardless of race, ethnicity or age) A good citizen respects social justice. A person who protests against the grabbing of public land and destruction of the environment such as Wangari Maathai demonstrates good citizenship.
- A good citizen respects inclusiveness in society. He/she does not ignore any member of society in making of decisions on matters affecting all citizens
- A good citizen respects equality of all citizens
- A good citizen respects human rights. He/she not only respects his /her right but also the rights of others in society
- A good citizen is expected to ensure that there is no discrimination against any member or section of the population to ensure the protection of the marginalized in the society.
- Good citizenship entails support for good governance. He/she has a duty to pay taxes to the government so that it can generate the revenue required to finance activities for the benefit of all.
- A good citizen has an obligation to maintain a high level of integrity in society. H/she should desist from corrupt practices and even report such acts to relevant authorities.
- A good citizen has a duty to maintain transparency and accountability. Public servants should be accountable for their actions and maintain high level of transparency.
- A good citizen supports government by taking part in projects that ensure sustainable development in the country- through participation in environment friendly projects.
Importance of being a good citizen
- Being a good citizen promotes peace and stability hence development.
- A good citizen promotes law and order hence enjoyment of rights and freedoms.
- Good citizenship promotes cordial relationship and social peace.
- It reduces government expenditure on security organs necessary for maintaining law and order.
- It promotes the good name of a country hence encourages tourism which is important for our development.
- It curbs against social vises like corruption, nepotism or tribalism since a good citizen can not indulge in such activities.
- It promotes good relationship with neighbors.