“The Constitution Lies To Us”: Securing Accountability for the Right to Food in Kenya

Published on 1 October 2014

In 2010 Kenya enacted a new constitution that brought into law a range of progressive economic and social rights including the legal entitlement of its citizens ‘to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality’ (Republic of Kenya 2010). Hunger is widespread in Kenya and, despite the constitutional commitment, our study finds a persistent failure of accountability for hunger.

Factors rooted in Kenya’s history and political economy have dampened citizen expectations of the state, thwarted popular mobilisation and generated weak state responses. This raises a question of responsibility. In this paper, we explore the failure and efforts to overcome them, before considering how accountability for hunger can be made the norm.

The period from 2007 to 2012 was marked by high and volatile food prices worldwide. This triggered popular mobilisation in several countries, as well as varying responses by governments. Institutionalised accountability for hunger is generally weak, however. This is the case not only with respect to Kenya, but for most governments’ responses to the food price surges of that period, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.1

This paper is part of a four-country study that analyses these responses in terms of the degree to which they approximate accountability for hunger. The countries covered by the study are Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Mozambique. The central question addressed is: under what conditions do riots and ‘right to food’ campaigns make governments more accountable for hunger?


Patta Scott-Villiers

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies
Musembi, C. and Scott-Villiers P.
Food Riots and Food Rights project report


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