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Civil society urge for a Yes vote

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 21 – Civil society organisations advocating for constitutional reforms have launched a campaign to push for an amendment to the law that will allow a Yes-Yes vote in next year’s referendum.

Working under the banner, Constitution and Reform Education Consortium, the organisations’ spokesman Morris Odhiambo said emerging rifts in the Committee of Experts on the Constitution could spell disaster for the process.

"The Yes-Yes option is the only way to guarantee Kenyans a different constitutional dispensation. It will enable the country to concentrate on the content of the constitution-making as we approach the referendum and during the referendum campaigns," said the National Civil Society Congress President.

Kavetsa Adagala, a former commissioner of the defunct Constitution of Kenya Review Commission says the move is meant to put pressure on politicians to avoid a NO vote in the plebiscite.

"Goodwill comes from within but the only way out of getting back to the current Constitution which is in tatters is to have a Yes-Yes Referendum. Its in other countries where constitutional matters are so important, that even the voting is compulsory," Ms Adagala said.

While, Release Political Prisoner (RPP) executive director Stephen Musau urged the committee of experts against rushing the process as they risk sideling interest groups who feel their contributions were ignored.

"Looking at the momentum that’s now building we have seen the faith based group coming up and saying they are disowning the process that is now telling you that already they are mobilizing towards a No towards the document which will be produced," he said.

Mr Musau added: "The political parties are also saying now we are not consulted, so why rush this process with the current system, just to say we did our part it is the people who rejected it, which is the same route we took during the Bomas process."

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They said they will set petition desks in Nairobi and other towns to collect signatures which will be handed over to parliament or alternatively used to come up with a parallel process.

The Committee of Experts on the Constitution plans to have the law ready for the plebiscite by March 2010.

The committee is warning that time is running out given that they have five months to come up with the referendum draft.

The 12-month mandate of the Committee of Experts ends in March next year, according to the Constitution Amendment Act, 2008.

Mr Kitonga said consultations with various groups and the public will continue for 30 days after publication of the Harmonised Draft Constitution.

The committee will once again meet the Reference Group of September 24 to receive more views on the process.

"The draft produced will be subject to discussion by the Parliamentary Select Committee and Parliament. At both stages, there will be opportunities to consult, negotiate and reach consensus," said Mr Kitonga on Friday.

Former nominated MP Njoki Ndungu skipped the Naivasha retreat, saying in a protest letter to Mr Kitonga that it was premature for the team to hold a drafting retreat without having consulted widely.


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