Constitution: Karua against constituent assembly

September 2, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 2 – The Government on Tuesday moved to bridge a growing rift with the civil society over the constitution review process, pleading with the lobbyists to support proposals for a team of experts.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua said a lean team, as proposed by the mediation team would be reflective of national interests.

Members of the civil society have been calling for the formation of a constituent assembly, which they claim would be representative, but Karua, dismissed such calls saying it’s not about representation but participation.

However, the International Commission of Jurists, Centre for Multiparty Democracy and several other civil society groups differed with her saying the process had to include other stakeholders.

At a civil society consultative forum on constitution making, they argued that seven experts were too few to represent Kenya’s interest demanding to know who they were and the criteria to be used to appoint them.

Karua responded that there would be four international and three local experts whom Parliament would approve before the President appoints them.

“If we were to agree that we take only Kenyan experts, the moment a decision an individual doesn’t like comes up, we will be asking ‘is that expert ODM or PNU?’ We need to ensure that our personal and political interests do not threaten the review again, we are coming from deep mistrust, we need our friends to help us to complete it,” she said.

Karua further argued that the process was inclusive since it allowed participation of the people but avoided group representations.

She said allowing group representation would be a replica of the past processes explaining further that groups would derail the process.

She insisted that the Constitutional Amendment and the Constitution of Kenya Review Bills were not cast in stone, and welcomed suggestions from all sectors.

She said following some concerns from the civil society and members of the public the two Bills had already been amended.

“We had put in the earlier law that 65 percent of those voting must say ‘Yes’ to the document. We changed that to be a simple majority for the reason that when a referendum is not contested it may not attract too much enthusiasm,” she said.

Karua also said approval of the draft by 65 percent of the districts had been revised to have Parliament pass it by the usual 65 percent but in the referendum a simple majority and 25 percent in at least five provinces.

She said some of the districts had not yet been legalised hence it will cause confusion since it will be unclear which districts are being considered.

Constitutive referundum

To avoid divisions during the referendum the minister was for the idea that a constitutive referendum be adopted instead of a resolution one.

She explained that in a constitutive referendum consensus will not be contested and people will be voting to merely enact the constitution, i.e. it will be a matter of YES, YES and not YES, NO.

She urged the constitution makers to dialogue and acquire amicable ways of resolving disputes should they occur to ensure serious divisions do not occur.

Meanwhile, Karua held consultations with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Administration of Justice to chart the way forward to attaining a new constitution.

LSK Chairman Okong’o Omogeni told journalists that among the issues that were being discussed included the role of the public in making the long-awaited new constitution and other grave issues that have been raised by the public.

“We are discussing about involvement of foreigners in the process, the number of representation of locals and how quickly this country can get a new constitution and how we can cut down on the contentious issues ahead of the referendum without dividing the country,” Omogeni said.

Omogeni however admitted that the group failed to arrive at a consensus and said it would reconvene on Friday in a bid to reach a formidable conclusion.



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