Wednesday, March 17, 2010



By John Harrington Ndeta
March 17 2010

The 10th Parliament may as well go down in history of this country as the single most important institution that oversaw incredible leadership, institutional and constitutional changes.

Right from signing of the National Peace Accord between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and subsequent creation of Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) to the formation of Committee of Experts (CoE) through an act of Parliament, the yearning for holistic reforms can only be actualized if a new constitution is realized before 2012.

The wise men of the old would say and I quote, “you have eaten a whole bull; what remains is just a tail, won’t you finish?”

Since the Committee of Experts (CoE) established by the Kenya Constitution Review Act 2008, dutifully and expertly executed their mandate giving Kenya a Revised Harmonized Constitution, the ball now is in the Parliamentarians court.

Previous efforts by Kenyans to retain their wishes in the Constitution making process have been frustrated with the climax of these painful antecedents being the 2005 constitutional referendum. Not so much was achieved even after various stakeholders raised concerns over the handling of the process by the political class.

Ugly incidents witnessed in Naivasha, Kilifi and outside Parliament in 2005 and the referendum campaigns that led to deaths of innocent Kenyans and destruction of property in various parts of the country serve as a constant reminder of why we need to speak with one voice. This is particularly so when it comes to matters constitution.

The results of 2005 referendum on the proposed constitution left Kenyans deeply divided; a scenario that played itself out more violently during and after the 2007 elections. In February 2008, the Coalition Government was conceived with the primary purpose of instituting far reaching reforms that would ensure that events of 2007/8 do not recur.

At this juncture, I wish to remind our legislators that Agenda 4 of the National Accord of which the constitutional review is but one of other items that seek to reconcile Kenyans and move the country forward.

Both sides of the National Coalition Government have continued to pull apart when it matters most and the constitution; important as it is, they still find it difficult to be of the same mind. These hard-line stances, ultimatums and counter-ultimatums given from time to time from the two sides of the government can be the cue to divide Kenyans along political lines a situation that would jeopardize chances of entrenching a new constitution during the lifespan of the 10th parliament.

Let it be known that a coin has two sides and the only thing that makes it ‘a coin’ is that the two sides are mutually depended on each other. Differences of opinion and preferences by PNU and ODM ought not to diminish Kenyans’ chances of bequeathing themselves a new constitution in such prolific eon.

What Kenyans need at this moment in time is consensus building on the revised harmonized constitution so that as Parliamentarians retreat to reach consensus on the new law, it will not be viewed like the Kilifi Retreat that was said to have mutilated the then proposed law in 2005. Rumors of sinister motive by sections of political elites, plans to reintroduce controversial clauses that have been tackled by the CoE and which could divide Kenyans further amounts to taking one step ahead and numerous others back.

The MPs should bear in mind that the work of the CoE was to harmonize alternative views on the constitution and come up with the most acceptable document that would help unite Kenyans. That, they have done and the MPs should strive to tighten the laws and not to drastically water down what has been meticulously woven together.

What we need is consensus and not political grandstanding. It is time President, Mwai Kibaki and the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga rallied their allies to what is agreeable and shared denominators by the majority of the citizens while discarding their individual interests for purposes of building a cohesive nation.

Where Parliamentarians fail to agree or make far reaching amendments to the draft put together by the CoE, the Kenya Constitution Review Act is clear on the way forward. A reference group of 30 members drawn from the Civil Society, Religious leaders and Professional bodies would join the 9-Member Committee of Experts and the 26-member Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review to draft a final document.

This document would then be published by the Attorney General for Kenyans to vote for it in a referendum. We cannot afford to lose this historic chance no matter what. We can as well go all the way if our 10th Parliament is hell bent on making us fail. This time round, Kenyans MUST end up with a constitution either way.

The Writer is the Information and Communication officer; PeaceNet Kenya.