Kenyan MPs to kick off Constitution debate

March 23, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 23 – A divided Parliament is on Tuesday afternoon scheduled to begin debate on the Proposed Constitution after various consensus building efforts failed to yield fruits.

A planned Speaker\’s Kamukunji failed to take place on Tuesday morning, piling onto the failure of a four-day consensus building retreat on contentious issues that was meant to come up with tangible resolutions. The Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity have pulled in different sides on the Devolution and Representation Chapters.

Members of Parliament left Kabete on Monday with no option but to back the proposals by the Committee of Experts (CoE) since they were not able to agree on the sticky issues.

“So long as none of the proposals by parties garners the requisite 145-member support for any amendments to be made, we shall stick to the proposal by CoE to have 47 counties as the centres of devolution,” said Parliamentary Select Committee chairman Abdikadir Mohamed.

A high-level PNU consultative group meeting ahead of the debate resolved to stick to two tiers of government contained in the Proposed Constitution, but to build consensus by increasing Counties to 80 to carry along minorities.

Legislators have until Thursday next week to pass the document with or without any changes. Mr Mohammed said since at informal talks there was no consensus, it is now up to the parties to mobilise support on the floor of the House.

In the heat of all this, Constituional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo is keeping it optimistic that with or without party consensus, Kenyans will have a new Constitution.

He said on Tuesday morning that the law on the review process ensures that with just a simple majority the Proposed Constitution will move to the next stage of the review which is publication in readiness for a referendum.

”It is a shame that MPs did not agree. However from next week Thursday the document shall have to move to the Attorney General for publication in readiness for the referendum,” he said.

Mr Kilonzo however said there is a shared political goodwill from the coalition government to ensure that the country gets a new Constitution.

“Both the President and the Prime Minister are very supportive on this process and I’m waiting for the debate to end so that I can charge them to lead efforts of ensuring the passage of the document in a referendum,” he said.

The Churches have on their part threatened to shoot down the Proposed Constitution owing to clauses that support abortion and inclusion of Kadhis Courts.

Elsewhere, the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has raised concerns over the deadlock by MPs on the constitution debate.

Chairman Albert Kamunde said on Tuesday that parliamentarians were putting their personal interests ahead of those of other Kenyans and challenged them to treat the process with the seriousness it deserved.

“This is the most important process a citizen can undertake with a fellow citizen in the reconstruction of the State and thus the National Assembly should represent the people’s voice only at this stage and not sectarian interests,” he stated.

“The Proposed Constitution as represented by the Committee of Experts should be seriously considered and adopted.”


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