Kenya unveils draft Constitution

November 17, 2009 12:00 am


, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – The harmonised draft Constitution that proposes a hybrid system of government has finally been unveiled.

Kenyans now have 30 days to debate and give suggestions on the changes they would like included in the draft, whose passage will signify the end to an imperial presidency.

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to read the document.

The main areas Kenyans are required to give their suggestions on include how to resolve the contentious issues such as the Executive, Legislature, devolution and transition mechanisms.

The document, which borrows heavily from past documents like the Bomas, Wako and Kilifi drafts has bold proposals on the form of governance, number of constituencies and regional governments.

"In the committees, Kenyans were divided almost equally on the question of their support for a pure presidential or pure parliamentary system.  An overwhelming number of Kenyans stated that they must elect their president directly but they also maintained that they required a Prime Minister with some measure of authority to oversee the day to day functions of the government and to be regularly accountable to Parliament," the chairman of the Committee of Experts Nzamba Kitonga said in defending the proposed hybrid government.

"Despite the difference in opinion, Kenyans were unanimous that the era of an imperial President must come to an end.  There must be an elaborate system of checks and balances running throughout the entire government structure."

Mr Kitonga allayed fears that their proposal would make the President \\\\\\\’a lame duck\\\\\\\’ saying although the powers of the President had been considerably reduced, he/she would still enjoy powers which include dissolution of government on recommendation of Parliament and remain the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces plus retain chairmanship of the National Security Committee.

"The document we unveiled before you has tried to respond to these needs by creating a dignified, stately cum-executive presidency with sufficient authority to oversee, unite and protect the country but without the baggage of the day-to-day running of government which previously exposed the office to abuse and misuse of power," he said.

The new document also proposes that appointments of top officials be subjected to approval by Parliament making it possible to impeach both the President and the Vice President.   The Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are similarly crafted in such a way that there was no friction with both the Presidency in the day-to-day running of the government.

To balance between politics and professionalism in government, the draft proposes that non-politicians be appointed into the Cabinet while also placing a cap on the number of Cabinet Ministers.

"This is meant to curb the prevailing system of patronage and wastage of public resources in making ministerial appointments," the chairman said.

In enjoyment of his powers the President has been given authority to sack an entire government if Kenyans embrace the suggestions.

"To guard against excesses the Prime Minister and the Cabinet can be sent packing at anytime by the President on the recommendation of Parliament," he said.

The Senate is proposed as coronary to the devolved government for its protection and to superintend over equitable and fair distribution of resources at the grassroots level.

The draft also proposes the disbandment of the Provincial Administration which has been the subject of criticism in the past as a colonial relic.

"Its function may conflict and overlap that of the devolved government," he said.

The draft also proposes an overhaul of the judiciary but said it should be done in a staggered manner "so as to avoid creating a vacuum."

There have been voices of disquiet and discontent over Kadhis courts but majority of Kenyans who made presentations didn\\\\\\\’t categorise the Kadhis courts as a contentious issue so long as they are retained in their current constitutional form.

 "The committee therefore found it unjust to withdraw existing rights and thereby needlessly create a disgruntled cadre of citizens," he said.

Mr Kitonga appealed to Kenyans who are dissatisfied to give their submissions in a sober manner during the next thirty days.

"A Constitution is a covenant for mutual co-existence and not for the complete satisfaction of all. I therefore plead with the dissatisfied section of the clergy not to forsake us at our greatest hour of need.  Please hear our anguish cry and come with us," he pleaded with those opposed to Kadhis courts.

The Orange Democratic Movement had earlier wanted executive powers shared between the President who should be Head of State, while the Prime Minister would be the Head of Government.

The Party of National Unity on the other hand had proposed a President – who is both Head of State and Head of Government – and appoints the PM, Deputy PM, Deputy President and Cabinet Ministers.


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