Tuesday, November 17, 2009



November 17 2009

The public will have one month to debate the draft.

Kenyans’ quest for a new constitution edged closer to reality after the harmonised draft constitution was published on Tuesday.

The public will now have one month to debate the draft and make their views known to the Committee of Experts, who drew up the document.

Committee chairman Nzamba Kitonga said it was “a working draft to facilitate dialogue among Kenyans.”

He was speaking during the launch of the harmonised draft constitution at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi.

He added that his team had strived to come up with a draft largely acceptable to Kenyans and said while there were “voices of disquiet” particularly with regard to the Kadhi Courts, he noted that Kenyans had not categorised it as a contentious issue as long as it remains “in the current constitutional form.”

Committee member Otiende Amollo said that they had stuck to their task within the agreed time.

“I am happy to report that the first resolution of this committee was that it would not seek an extension.

“As we launch this harmonised draft constitution, I am pleased to say that we are still within the timeframe.”

He said that his team had identified ten cardinal principles to guide the process that will culminate in a document that will among other things: unite and strengthen Kenya, constrain executive power, decentralise power, avoid acrimonious elections of winner-take-all, ensure a stable government and ensure a peaceful government.

After the one-month debate, the experts will have 21 days to incorporate the views of Kenyans in the draft.

They will then turn it over to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the constitution.

Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo thanked the Committee of Experts for its work despite "the enormity of the task, the limitation of time and a constraining environment." He added that the gesture was a "testament to their committment to the process."

Mr Kilonzo said that the launch of the draft constitution was a first step in the critical stage towards a new constitution, adding that it was "not cast in stone."

The Justice minster said that the document contained "proposals for debate that starts immediately the committee unveils the draft."

He said that the realisation of a new constitution should "not be an end in itself" but a means to identify and consolidate new values for the Kenyan society such as tolerance and open-mindedness.
It is a pathway to a new Kenya," said Mr Kilonzo.

He urged the civil society, non governmental organisations and religious leaders to support the draft.

The director of the Committee of Experts Ekuru Aukot urged Kenyans to read the draft and debate it with "the reality of what happened last year."

He was referring to the post election violence that followed a disputed presidential election. At least 1,000 people were left dead and a further 650,000 displaced from the homes in the chaos.

Mr Aukot showed those assembled at KICC a two-minute clip of the some of the low moments of the violence that moved some of the politicians, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, to the verge of tears.

Mr Musyoka said the occasion was a "historic opportunity to celebrate the determination of Kenyans in their pursuit of a new constitution."

He said that debate on the document should address all issues such that certain interest groups are not "alienated" from the process.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga promised to "read vey meticulously" the draft and "offer views along with other Kenyans."

He told the gathering that Priscilla Abwao- the only woman delegate who attended the Legislative council (Legco) at Lancaster House in the 1960s had died Tuesday morning before leading them to observing a minute of silence in her honour.

Among the key proposals of the draft are: Executive Prime Minister, the thorny issue of devolution, dual citizenship, two chamber parliament, a supreme court, Kadhi courts and the requirement that the cabinet should comprise a maximum of 20 members.

In the draft, the PM as the head of government will nominate and chair the cabinet, while the president will be head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. He will also chair the National Security Council.

The document also proposes that Kenyans can hold two passports, that there will be a Senate (Upper House) and a National Assembly (Lower House).

According to the draft, half of cabinet members should be drawn from outside parliament, and it also retains the Kadhi courts in their present form.

On devolution, the draft proposes a three-tier approach to governance: national, regional and county governments, which will be independent from each other and manage their own budgets.

Kenyans can channel their views to the committee through email, correspondence or leave their comments on the CoE website.