LSK backs minimum law reforms

September 3, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 3 – Differences over the constitution review process intensified Wednesday after the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) joined other civil society groups in proposing the adoption of piecemeal reforms.

The LSK is asking for the immediate strengthening of key institutions particularly the Electoral Commission of Kenya and the Judiciary which the society said are vital institutions in constitutional dispensation.

Chairman Okong’o Omogeni said minimum reforms would help clear obstacles likely to derail the road map to a fully-fledged new constitution.

“Some of the contentious issues such as the Kadhi courts and the system of governance require to be discussed in the minimum reforms to simplify the entire process,” he said.

The lawyers further questioned the role of foreign experts in the review process.

“The experts can come in as resource persons, or as consultants but not as the decision-making body in the proposed committee of experts because this is the process that must have the confidence of Kenyans,” LSK Constitution Committee Convenor Nzamba Kitonga said.

The government had proposed that four local experts assisted by three foreigners constitute the review committee.

Justice Minister Martha Karua on Tuesday told a group of civil societies there was risk of sharp divisions if many local experts were involved since the country was still divided along regional and political spheres.

The LSK is however not satisfied with her insistence on having foreigners, with Kitonga saying that the Kenyan experts do not have vested interests.

“That reason cannot apply on the Kenyan experts because the mistrust is alleged to have come from the events of January.  People alleged to have caused them are the politicians, so how can experts like lawyers and journalists create mistrust when the people who are responsible for the mistrust are already leading us?” Kitonga wondered.    

The question whether a referendum was necessary also remained a contentious issue between the government and the civil society.

The LSK said subjecting the country to a referendum was likely to cause divisions especially among the political class saying that it would kill the coalition spirit that Cabinet members were already struggling to uphold.

“A referendum can be divisive in nature, an indication that it should be avoided at all costs,” Kitonga said.

Karua had however said that before going to the plebiscite, there should be intensive civic education to ensure Kenyans know what they are voting for.

The LSK also proposed that Kenyans should also consider a vote to adopt one of two different drafts.

“The differences in the two drafts will for example give a choice between a Presidential and Parliamentary system of governance,” Kitonga said.


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