In a democratic society, each citizen has a civic responsibility. Civic duties are legal responsibilities that every citizen is expected to fulfill. They are actions that citizens are expected to undertake by law. Under the Kenya Constitution, citizenship is by registration, birth, or naturalization. When one becomes a citizen, he or she takes up specific rights and responsibilities. These rights are contained in different parts of the constitution including Article 1 on Sovereignty of the People, 10 on National Values and Principles of Good Governance, and Chapter 4 on the Bill of Rights. Responsibilities are as good as rights in the development of a country. Here are important responsibilities that every Kenyan citizen has:
1. Responsibility to abide by the Law
Citizens are required to abide by the law at all times because this enhances social cohesion. People live in peace when they abide by the law. Citizens are expected to obey the law whether they like that law or not. Where people do not like a given law, there are legal ways of raising complaints and effecting changes to that law. Obeying the law keeps people from committing crimes and maintains order in society.
2. Responsibility to be Patriotic
Patriotism is the most important element of good citizenship; it is an expression of one’s love for his or her country and the willingness to defend it against enemies. In the past, Kenyans have exhibited patriotism in supporting their own in international sporting events. Perhaps the greatest example of patriotism is the Kenya Defense Forces who for more than two years now have been out in Somalia fighting to protect the country against Al-Shabaab. Members of KDF are ready to give their lives for their country and those who live in it, an act that shows true patriotism.
3. Responsibility to Respect Others
This is critical particularly in addressing the challenge of tribalism that we face as a country. Respect is two-way; respecting others causes them to reciprocate the same. If we respect others, we will also be able to respect public spaces such as parks, hospitals, vehicles, and buildings among others because we want others to find them in good condition. Destroying or vandalizing public property only causes suffering to all of us because one, we will not enjoy using those facilities, and two, our taxes will be spent on repairing or replacing such property which means that the government will either increase taxes or forfeit funding something else and channel the funds to repairing or replacing the property. So, it is better to respect public and private property so that there is prudent utilization of resources.
4. Responsibility to protect the environment
Inasmuch as the constitution gives citizens the right to a clean, healthy environment, every citizen has the responsibility to protect the environment. This does not necessarily mean taking up huge tasks like fencing off a national park. Rather, it implies making it our duty to ensure that our surroundings, both private and public are clean. There are many ways to do this like putting trash in the right place rather than throwing it anywhere, ensuring that lights are not left on when they are not in use, ensuring that we do not waste water, planting trees and nurturing them, and even more important, teaching our young ones to embrace values and actions that protect our environment. Sustainable development is listed as one of our national values in Article 10 of our constitution. For this to happen, we need to protect the environment to ensure that future generations also get to enjoy the natural resources we enjoy today.
5. Responsibility to participate in governance processes
Participation is one of the national values under Article 10 of our constitution and it appears in many other articles throughout the constitution, an element that shows how important it is. True participation can only happen when we, as citizens are informed about what is going on at the different levels of government i.e. national and county levels. The main aim of participation is to ensure that citizen voices are heard in governance processes and being holders of sovereign power as in Article 1, those voices are considered in decision making. As a citizen, you, therefore, have a right to make your voice heard in the allocation of public resources through the planning and budget-making process. Your participation does not end there, you also have a responsibility to follow up on the implementation of those budgets and plans. Learn more on ways to participate from this article.
6. Responsibility to democratically elect leaders
If you have attained the age of the majority, then you have a responsibility to elect your leaders democratically. Voting is a responsibility as much as it is a right. When you cast your vote during the general elections, you ensure that the right people take leadership in elective offices. You also have a responsibility to ensure that you do not sell your vote because it is through that vote that you partially exercise your sovereign power bestowed to you under Article 1 of the constitution. So, do not sit at home with your vote when the time for voting comes, act responsibly by going out to the polling station and making your voice heard in terms of who should be your leader at the Ward, County, and National levels.
7. Responsibility to hold leaders to account
Every citizen has a responsibility to ensure that the leaders they elect are working properly and conducting themselves in accordance with the constitution. Your work does not end with electing the leaders, you have the responsibility to raise your voice when things are not going well. In fact, the constitution even gives you as a citizen and the electorate who gave some of your powers to the elected officials as in Article 1, powers to recall your Member of the National Assembly under Article 104 if you have valid reasons to do so.