Role of National Cohesion & Integration Commission

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is a statutory body established under the National Cohesion and Integration Act (Act No.12 of 2008).

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission draws its existence from the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreement signed in Nairobi on 1 February 2008 by the Government; Party of National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) delegations, and witnessed by H.E. Kofi A. Annan for the Panel of Eminent African Personalities.

This Agreement formed the basis of the National Accord that H.E. President Mwai Kibaki and the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga signed on 28 February 2008 when the dialogue was officially launched.

The dialogue sought to provide a peaceful solution to the political impasse and violence that had engulfed the country, following the December 2007 general elections and had four (4) main agendas:

  • Agenda No. 1 – Immediate action to stop violence and restore fundamental rights and liberties.
  • Agenda No. 2 – Immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, promote reconciliation, healing and restoration.
  • Agenda No. 3 – How to overcome the political crisis at the time.
  • Agenda No. 4 – Long-term measures and solutions (such as constitutional, institutional and legal reforms, land reform, poverty and inequity, unemployment (particularly among the youth), consolidating national cohesion and unity, and transparency, accountability, and addressing impunity).

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission was formed under Agenda No. 4, which recognized that long-term issues with regard to poverty, inequitable distribution of resources and perceptions of historical injustices and exclusion of segments of the Kenyan society were among the underlying causes of the prevailing social tensions, instability and the cycle of violence recurrent in electoral processes in Kenya.

Discussions under this Agenda item therefore examined and proposed solutions to longstanding issues such as:

  • Undertaking constitutional, legal and institutional reforms;
  • Tackling poverty and inequality as well as combating regional development imbalances;
  • Tackling unemployment, particularly among the youth;
  • Consolidating national cohesion and unity;
  • Undertaking land reform;
  • Addressing a lack of accountability and transparency among leaders and clipping impunity.

The mandate of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission

National Cohesion and Integration Commission exists to promote national unity in Kenya.

In order to actualize this, the Commission facilitates processes and policies that encourage elimination of all forms of ethnic discrimination irrespective of background, social circle, race, and ideological belief(s), and by so doing, enhances the capacity for Kenyans to accept each other in appreciating the significance of diversity.

The Commission denotes the urgency to mobilize, sensitize, train, and educate Kenyans about non-violent conflict resolution processes as well as peacebuilding initiatives that appreciate human dignity. In this regard, the NCIC signifies the efforts to:

  • Foster a general understanding of the concepts of national cohesion and integration in reference to the Constitution of Kenya (2010);
  • Address causes of ethnic discrimination, negative ethnicity, perceptions of discrimination, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities;
  • Unify and integrate Kenyans into a cohesive society guided by national values and the principles of governance contained in Article 10 of the Constitution;
  • Foster equity and social justice by building on, or complementing other on-going national processes aimed at addressing nationhood, national cohesion and integration;
  • Establish and promote principles, standards and best practices that should guide the process of national cohesion and integration, and reconciliation;
  • Provide a schedule of roles for various stakeholders in the operationalisation of the national cohesion and integration process, and establish how these stakeholders can be mobilized to play their roles effectively;
  • Provide an organizational framework for the implementation of the policy’s strategic objectives; and
  • Provide a framework for mainstreaming national cohesion and integration into national development programmes, projects, and activities including infusing cohesion principles into laws and policies as stipulated in the National Cohesion and Integration Act.

The Membership of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission

The National Cohesion and Integration Act stipulates that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission should consist of:

  • a chairperson nominated by the President and approved by the National Assembly;
  • seven commissioners nominated by the President and approved by the National Assembly

The commissioners should, at their first meeting, elect a vice-chairperson from amongst the commissioners.

The chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Commission should not be of the same gender.

In appointing members to the Commission, the principles of gender equity, ethnic and regional representation should apply.

The chairperson and members of the Commission should be appointed for a single term of six years and are not eligible for re-appointment.

The chairperson should —

  • preside over the meetings of the Commission; and
  • be the spokesperson of the Commission.

If the office of the chairperson becomes vacant or if the chairperson is unable to exercise the powers or perform the functions of their office owing to absence, illness or any other cause, the vice-chairperson should exercise those powers or perform those functions until a substantive chairperson is appointed.

A person qualifies for appointment as a commissioner if the person-

  • is a citizen of Kenya;
  • has the knowledge and at least ten years experience in the case of the chairperson, and at least two years experience in the case of a commissioner, in matters relating to race, ethnic and human relations, public affairs and human rights, peace and security;
  • holds a degree from a university recognised in Kenya; and
  • meets the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

A person is not eligible for appointment as the chairperson or a member of the commission if such person —

  • is a State Officer ;
  • is a member of the governing body of or is actively involved in the affairs of a political party;
  • has promoted sectoral, ethnic, racial or religious animosity or openly advocated for partisan ethnic positions or interests;
  • is an undischarged bankrupt;
  • has served as a Member of the Commission;
  • has been removed from office for contravening the provisions of the Constitution or any other law; or
  • has not met his or her legal obligations relating to tax and other statutory obligations.

Powers of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission

Without prejudice, the Commission should:

  • Promote the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race;
  • Discourage persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices on the ground of ethnicity or race;
  • Promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in the social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities;
  • Plan, supervise, co-ordinate and promote educational and training programmes to create public awareness, support and advancement of peace and harmony among ethnic communities and racial groups;
  • Promote respect for religious, cultural, linguistic and other forms of diversity in a plural society;
  • Promote equal access and enjoyment by persons of all ethnic communities and racial groups to public or other services and facilities provided by the Government;
  • Foster arbitration, conciliation, mediation and similar forms of dispute resolution mechanisms in order to secure and enhance ethnic and racial harmony and peace;
  • Investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination and make recommendations to the Attorney-General, the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant authority on the remedial measures to be taken where such complaints are valid;
  • Investigate on its own accord or on request from any institution, office, or person any issue affecting ethnic and racial relations;
  • Identify and analyze factors inhibiting the attainment of harmonious relations between ethnic communities, particularly the barriers to the participation of any ethnic community in social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and political endeavours, and recommend to the Government and any other relevant public or private body how these factors should be overcome;
  • Determine strategic priorities in all the socio-economic, political and development policies of the Government impacting on ethnic relations and advise on their implementation;
  • Recommend to the Government criteria for deciding whether any public office or officer has committed acts of discrimination on the ground of ethnicity or race;
  • Monitor and review all legislation and all administrative acts relating to or having implications for ethnic or race relations and equal opportunities and, from time to time, prepare and submit to the Government proposals for revision of such legislation and administrative acts;
  • Initiate, lobby for and advocate for policy, legal or administrative reforms on issues affecting ethnic relations;
  • Monitor and make recommendations to the Government and other relevant public and private sector bodies on factors inhibiting the development of harmonious relations between ethnic groups and on barriers to the participation of all ethnic groups in the social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and political life of the people;
  • Undertake research and studies and make recommendations to the Government on any issue relating to ethnic affairs including whether ethnic relations are improving;
  • Make recommendations on penalties to be imposed on any person for any breach of the provisions of the Constitution or of any law dealing with ethnicity;
  • Monitor and report to the National Assembly the status and success of the implementation of its recommendations;
  • Issue notices directing persons or institutions involved in actions or conduct amounting to violations of human rights on the basis of ethnicity or race to stop such actions or conduct within a given period and; do all other acts and things as may be necessary to facilitate the efficient discharge of its functions.

In the discharge of its functions under the National Cohesion and Integration Act, the Commission:

  • should not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
  • should publish the names of persons or institutions whose words or conduct may undermine, have undermined, or contributed towards undermining good ethnic relations, or who are involved in ethnic discrimination or the propagation of ethnic hate.
  • may enter into association with such other bodies or organizations within or outside Kenya, as it may consider desirable or appropriate, and in furtherance of the purpose for which the Commission is established.
  • should have the power to summon witnesses, to call for the production of books, plans and other documents, and to examine witnesses and parties on oath.

For more about the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, visit their website at cohesion.or.ke.

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George Githinji

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