Constitution stalemate moves an inch

September 5, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 5 – The government and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Friday made progress in the search for a new constitution after agreeing on some of the contentious issues that had been widely disagreed on.

Among the proposals adopted after a meeting with Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua was that the country would hold a referendum to give assent to the new constitution.

“We have made progress on controversial issues and we are also exploring through what means shall we deal with disputes that may arise to avoid any delays in the process,” Karua told reporters after the talks.

The LSK was initially opposed to a referendum saying that it would divide Kenyans the way it did in 2005.  The lawyers’ body had also argued that divisions had intensified after the post-election violence.

Karua held the position that a constitutive referendum was more favourable, and contended that building consensus before the plebiscite would ensure people merely voted to give the new constitution assent, as opposed to voting either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

The LSK and the government also consented to have a team of two foreign and seven local experts who would be appointed through a competitive process.

Two constitution Bills pending in parliament had proposed a team of seven experts; three foreign and four local ones and an amendment would now be necessary to include the changes.

LSK chairman Okongo Omogeni said the agreement was reached after making considerations of inclusivity.

On her part, Karua expressed her commitment in ensuring that Kenya gets a new constitution. She said the Constitution Amendment Bill and the Constitution Review Bill were not final and that the government was open to constructive suggestions.

She insisted on getting a broad based consensus and consideration of a dispute mechanism that would resolve any arising controversies during the review process.

Omogeni also said he believed they would reach an agreement on all issues in contention.

Calls by the civil society for minimum reforms and a decision whether to vote for two draft constitutions still remain unresolved.

Consultations between the LSK and the Justice Ministry are expected to continue until the parties come up with a clear road map for making a new constitution.

The next meeting is due next Monday.


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