Kenya Constitution quest in new phase

May 11, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – The penultimate leg of Kenya’s tedious road to a new Constitution kicked off on Tuesday with the launch of an intensive 30-day civic education programme, and an ambitious plan to distribute at least five million copies of the document to the public.

The Committee of Experts on Constitution Review (CoE) embarked on the process that aims to educate Kenyans on the aspects of draft to prepare them for the referendum expected in less than three months.

CoE Chairman Nzamba Kitonga launched a 20-page simplified version of the draft, a hand book, a training manual and a curriculum for the civic educators. The Committee has hired 15 regional coordinators and 210 civic educators who will lead the process and has said it will be working with vetted organisations.

“Your days as solemn by-standers in this process are over. It is now your duty to read the draft for yourself and vote either Yes or No or forever remain silent,” he told the Kenyan public.

Mr Kitonga urged Kenyans to read the draft for themselves and see the gains the document presents to the country and make an informed decision.

“It is your duty to carefully listen to the trainers and thereafter make an informed decision.”

Various committee members highlighted to the gathering key aspects of the draft touching on the Legislature, Leadership, Bill of Rights, Devolution, Executive, National Security, Citizenship, Land, an independent Judiciary and affirmative action.

Education Minister Sam Ongeri who represented President Mwai Kibaki at the launch, used the occasion to campaign for the endorsement of the draft.

“This is the defining moment for us to make an informed choice one way or the other. But allow me to say that this is a good document,” he said.

Speaking at the same function, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Assistant Minister William Cheptumo urged the Committee to ensure dialogue and public participation on the draft. He said Kenyans to ensure a sober debate and avoid divisive language.

“After the referendum we will still be here and we want to look forward to a process that will not divide us,” he charged.

Hundreds of Kenyans thronged the venue of the event at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre to secure a copy of the proposed law.

“As we haggle over the Yes or No vote, we need to remember that our ultimate desire is a new Constitution,” added Mr Kitonga in his statement. “This is about your life, the life of your children – this is about the future.”

The launch came amidst ongoing Yes or No campaigns on the draft.

As the launch was in progress, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were whipping political party leaders to boost the Yes campaign and emerged from the meeting to declare that a Yes rally would take place at Uhuru Park this Saturday.

The publication of the draft last Thursday passed the baton of the review process to both CoE and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. As the CoE continues with the civic education, the IIEC is tasked with conducting a referendum within 90 days from the publication date.

The IIEC is currently engaged in an aggressive search for referendum symbols and has sent out a national appeal for probable symbols from the public but  has ruled out the use of orange and banana symbols that were used in 2005 or any of the symbols used by the 47 registered political parties.



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