Kenya and the Rule of Law: The Perspective of Two Volunteers

Reaction to Kenya’s 2007 national elections was explosive. Riots claimed at least 1000 lives, and upwards of 300,000 people were displaced from their homes. The public lacked faith in both the ballot counting and in the impartiality of dispute resolution by the judiciary. On both counts, public cynicism was justified. No democracy can flourish without the rule of law. In the absence of faith in the rule of law to replace police state oppression, government stability is evanescent. Rule of law is a habit; it grows only through steady erosion of past practices and constant reminders to officials that the times have changed. Public faith in the rule of law cannot be demanded-it must be earned. Kenya emerged from dictatorial control in 2002. The process of gaining public faith in the rule of law is a long one, and Kenya is in the middle of it…Our work would include training the younger lawyers in the firm in strategy, case selection, legal research, brief writing, and trial tactics. In addition, we would work with an affiliated organization, the International Centre for Constitutional Research and Governance (ICCRG), a body created as an educational resource on matters of constitutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law for those in the legal, political, and public realms. We were to play a small role in helping to foster the rule of law in Kenya, and met with both success and failures in that task. The true import of these successes and failures can only be understood, however, in the context of the legal and political landscape in which we were operating.