New constitution a pipe dream, says LSK

July 29, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 29 – Kenya is unlikely to get a new constitution before the 2012 General Election, according to the Law Society of Kenya (LSK).

LSK Chairman Okong’o Omogeni expressed doubts on Tuesday that the Grand Coalition Government would champion a new constitution, explaining that the coalition would have to be dissolved if reforms were completed before the current Parliamentary term expires.

 “The National Reconciliation and Accord Act states that the moment the country has a new constitution the coalition government must come to an end; this means that this country will be subjected to another election, not necessarily in 2012,” he said.

The Accord was enacted in March; effectively creating the coalition government after Kofi Annan brokered the power- sharing deal.

Failure to deliver a new constitution would be a major setback for the coalition, which was formed with among others, the promise to deliver a new constitution within one year of power.

LSK is further calling for the withdrawal of two bills that were tabled in Parliament last month creating a road map to a new constitution.

The Constitution of Kenya Review Bill, 2008 and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill of 2008 were drafted by the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee and tabled in Parliament by Justice Minister Martha Karua.

Okong’o said restructuring of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was a major issue that needed to be adjusted, arguing that the commission was not credible to conduct a referendum.

He went on to say: “If these bills are adopted as they are, they are going to raise serious impediment on any hope Kenyans have; a proposal that there must be a turnout of 50 percent of the registered voters is an unnecessary impediment to the ratification of a new constitution.”

LSK wants the clause changed to instead state that the draft constitution would be ratified by a simple majority of the voters who turn out at the referendum.

The lawyers’ body also dismissed the proposal that 65 percent of districts must endorse the constitution saying 25 percent of voters from five provinces would be enough to approve the document.

LSK presented its proposals to the Parliamentary Committee on Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs, in which it stressed a preference for incremental amendments of the constitution as opposed to a complete overhaul.

Omogeni pointed out priority areas as the review of the ECK, Judicial reforms, definition of constituency and district boundaries among others.

He said a referendum would cause problems since the country was still divisive following last year’s general election expressing concerns that it was likely to trigger more violence.

Omogeni also feared that any contentious issues would lead into an entire rejection of the whole constitution, which has cost and time implications, alongside imminent divisions on tribal, party or political differences.


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