, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 13 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo has stressed that Kenya needs to get a new constitution as soon as possible, which should cover judicial reforms among other things.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Kilonzo stated that the committee of experts on Constitution review should complete its work by the end of the year to pave way for a referendum by mid next year.
“The next step for the committee is to prepare a report and draft Constitution, clearly indicating the contentious issues that need to be discussed further and the non contentious issues on which there is broad agreement,” he observed.
The Minister was speaking during a media forum where he outlined the long-term effects of not having a new constitution in place.
“We have no options. If we do not produce a new Constitutional order by the end of 2010, the politicians including my predecessor (Martha Karua) will go out there looking to lead a country where people have no shoes and food,” he stressed.
“December 2007/January 2008 will look like a picnic.”
Mr Kilonzo further stressed the need to institute reforms in the Judiciary so as to meet international standards, including equipping of court rooms with stenographers.
“Why should the judge be writing? In modern jurisdictions, both the judge and the witness speak into their computers and then you get a printout!”
The Justice Minister however said that institutions rather than individuals should be targeted in the quest for reforms.
“The High Court is recognised by chapter six of our constitution and (a Commission of Inquiry) is not. When we have commissions, the commissioners are given microphones and they have people there typing.”
There is broad consensus within and outside Kenya that the country needs constitutional reforms that strengthen local government and rectify regional resource imbalances.
There has been a push for such reforms since 1991, and some experts say the current political stalemate offers an opportunity to catalyse action.
Others think there is a short-term opportunity for incremental reforms, including establishing an independent electoral commission and eliminating the President’s power to dissolve Parliament.