Kenyans to wait longer for draft law

November 10, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 10 – The harmonised draft Constitution will not be published this week as widely expected.

Despite public pressure to release the draft, the chairman of the Committee of Experts Nzamba Kitonga on Tuesday failed to give a specific date when the document would be released only saying that "it must be within this month." 

"I will say shortly as to when the document will be released." he said.

According to the constitution framework calendar, the draft law was expected before the end of the week. The team held a bonding session two weeks ago in which they had committed to finalise the draft in readiness for release.

Mr Kitonga called for patience from Kenyans saying "there will be no secrecy about the law."

"I urge the press to refrain from publishing documents that have not been fully agreed on and which are possibly working drafts which were used in the past," the chairman pleaded in response to reports in the press.

Mr Kitonga spoke after meeting a caucus of Members of Parliament on reforms, who piled pressure on his team to release the draft law to end anxiety and speculation. Speaking on behalf of the MPs, Garsen lawmaker Danson Mungatana said publishing the draft would enable the country to prioritise consensus building instead of the current hardline positions.

"We are sure there will be issues of contention but our plea is we debate these issues in a sober manner… we release any political pressure and look at this thing (Constitution making) as a Kenyan thing," he said.

In response to the delay, members of the civil society said it should not be unnecessarily long, but emphasised that the most important issue was for the draft to be made readily available to all Kenyans when it is released.

The executive secretary of the Constitution and Reform Education Consortium Kawive Wambua said it was necessary to avoid mistakes made in 2005 when only a clique of the political class and other interest groups got access to the document and used it to influence public opinion.

"A delay will only be justified if it is being done to ensure wide circulation of the draft since Kenyans will only have 30 days after the release to interrogate the document and provide input," he said.

He said when the document is released, it should be simultaneously available to all sectors of the Kenyan population online, via hard copies, publication in the media, Braille and where possible in audio format, especially on contentious issues.

After the meeting with the CoE, Mr Mungatana said the making of a constitution was not about the stand of one political party or other.  "It is the work of Kenyans and we want the stand of Kenyans to come out in the draft."

Kenya has walked the narrow path of Constitution making for the last two decades with the process aborting severally.

Mr Kitonga on his part urged Parliament to move with haste in the formulation of a referendum law to facilitate a vote on the draft constitution. He asked the legislators to ensure that there is a smooth flow of the process at its critical stage.

Mr Mungatana pledged that MPs would prioritise the constitution agenda.


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