Kenyans need more time with draft

November 25, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – The Centre for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya (CMD) has asked Members of Parliament to amend the law and extend the 30 days allocated for Kenyans to read and comment on the Harmonised Draft Constitution.

CMD Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi told Capital News on Wednesday that only few Kenyans had received a copy of the draft, eight days after it was launched.

“MPs should appeal to the clause on 30 days to allow at least 60 or 90 days,” she said and added. “The parlimentary process has been given 90 days, citizens need to engage with this document more than Parliament and they are engaging it at a raw level, not everyone understands constitutional matters.”

Ms Kabeberi said the 30 day period was insufficient for Kenyans to decide on major controversial issues such as the system of government, devolution and transition. She said there needed to be more time for Kenyans to understand the systems and make informed choices instead of rushing them through.

The human rights activist expressed fears that there was a possibility of the draft being rejected if the country went to a referendum hurriedly without giving people a chance to understand its contents.

While she credited many clauses in the draft, she said it was important for people to also familiarise themselves with the kind of governance system proposed by the Committee of Experts (CoE) on Constitution.

According to the CoE, Kenyans wanted powers of the Executive reduced as well as checks and balances introduced to ensure excessive power is not vested in one individual.

But deciding on a presidential, hybrid or a parliamentary system is what had not clearly been defined as Ms Kabeberi explained: “The CoE has tried to put both systems in one, so we may never know the merits of either presidential or parliamentary, so we are going to choose something in between from a position of ignorance because many Kenyans do not understand the systems.”

For this reason, she called for two drafts to allow a ‘Yes- Yes’ referendum.
She said both systems have their benefits which are desirable to many Kenyans but that most of the people could still not define them.

“We should think outside the box… the law can be amended, this is also connected to time, the possibility of a ‘Yes – Yes’ vote is not negative.  It is how to manage it with the law or give enough time for education on the two systems,” she said.

Should it be impossible to get more days to read the constitution, Ms Kababeri urged Kenyans to use the short time given to make best use of the document and give their views.

“Go to the Capital News website, and many other websites to download the draft.  Buy the newspapers, go to the COE offices. Own the process,” she advised.

She also appealed to the Kenyan leadership to keep politics out of the process and to instead selflessly defend the country’s interest by ensuring a quality constitution is delivered.


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