ARTICLE 56: The Working Group for Effective Participation of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in the Constitutional Reform Process
Article 56 is a working group comprised of mainstream national and grassroots Civil Society organizations focusing on minority and indigenous peoples’ rights. The working group was a culmination of a two day forum organized by CEMIRIDE in January 2012 at Nakuru.
The name ‘Article 56’ is derived from the provision of Article 56 of the constitution which provides that the government shall put in place affirmative action programmes aimed at ensuring that minorities and marginalized groups;
a) Participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life
b) Are provided special opportunities in educational and economic fields
c) Are provided special opportunities for access to employment
d) Develop their cultural values, languages and practices
e) Have reasonable access to water, health services and infrastructure
The forum brought together representatives of Minorities and indigenous communities from across the country. There were representatives from North Rift, Upper Eastern, North Eastern, South Rift and Lamu. Diverse interests were represented at the forum including Pastoralists, Ethnic minorities, Fisher peoples, Hunter gatherers, women organizations, youth organizations, Persons living with disability, the donor community and national organizations representing minority and indigenous peoples.
The working group was necessitated by the quick pace of reforms the country is undertaking towards implementation of the constitution. There was realization that minority and indigenous communities could lose out on the gains of the new constitution during the implementation period. Minority and indigenous peoples were not being adequately represented in the national processes that were ongoing. Further to this, the constitution sets out peoples’ participation as an important national value. Participation is meant to ensure inclusivity and protection of peoples’ rights. History has shown that inclusivity and participation are best achieved when people come together as one, under one network.
The purpose of the forum was to ensure that minority and indigenous communities are represented in the constitution reform agenda. Representation here would be achieved by ensuring that their views and expectations are provided for in the legislation to be passed towards implementation of the constitution. The objective of the working group was to come up with an action plan for the effective participation and representation of minority and indigenous peoples (MIPs) in the implementation of the constitution. The forum was timed at a period when the country was undergoing extensive constitutional, policy and institutional reforms.
Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) would be the secretariat to the working group. CEMIRIDE would also provide a programme officer to coordinate the activities and operations of the working group.
Article 56 was charged with the roles and responsibilities of:
- Bill tracking; this would include coordination of information to grassroots organizations and compiling of memoranda. To this effect Article 56 would engage with the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) at different levels. Article 56 would liaise with the Pastoralist Parliamentary Group and other stakeholders in the policy processes through holding briefings.
- Networking and coordination; the working group would devise strategies of engagement within the network and with other stakeholders aimed at ensuring effective participation in the ongoing constitutional implementation process.
- Dissemination; the working group would ensure timely dissemination of information to the various groups in the network.
- Lobbying and Advocacy at the national and grassroots level; this would be conducted through CSOs at the grassroots level. Advocacy at the national level would be realized through press briefings on the stand of minority and indigenous communities in national processes.
- Fundraising in order to sustain the operation and activities of the network.
Article 56 comes at a time when the country is undergoing major constitutional reform processes. It aims at ensuring that the legislation to be passed during the implementation period contains a provision for minority and marginalized communities. Perhaps, there is light at the end of the tunnel.