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Constitution ship sets sail

NAIROBI, June 20 – The government published two key bills on Friday to kick-start the stalled constitutional review process, paving way for the formation of a new document.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua published the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill in the Kenya Gazette, a sign of commitment towards the new dispensation promised by the government in February.

The process will be carried out by a team of experts from the Parliamentary Select Committee, National Assembly and thereafter a referendum would be held.

The team of experts will include three people selected by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities and four MPs chosen by the Parliamentary Select Committee.

The body will be independent and is expected to scrutinise the Bomas Draft, Wako Draft and the Naivasha Accord to identify contentious issues.

They will also gather views from the public on the kind of constitution Kenyans want.

The Bills, published by the Justice Minister, state that at least 50 percent of all the registered voters must cast their ballot at the referendum.

25 percent of all the valid votes cast must come from at least 65 percent of all the districts in the country, the bills further provide, so that the new constitution reflects the interests of the people.

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The bills warn that no changes would be made in the draft constitution without the approval of Parliament, through an Act of Parliament, which must have support from more than half of the MPs in the House.

The new rules outlined in the two bills have also locked out former commissioners of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) from joining the intended Committee of Experts.

Debate on the bills, which will last for 30 days, will start immediately after MPs conclude discussions on the National Budget.

Upon approval of the draft Bill by Parliament, the Attorney General will receive it for publication and then the referendum will be carried out.

The current provisions state that the result of the referendum can be challenged by a petition in the High Court within 14 days, but will require the petitioner to pay Sh2 million.

According to the Justice Minister, the President shall, within 14 days after the referendum, publish a copy of the new Constitution in the Kenya Gazette.

The new Constitution shall become law 14 days after the President has published it.

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