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Judges picked for constitution court

NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 12 – The Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution has picked six Kenyan lawyers and three foreigners to sit in the Interim Independent Dispute Resolution Court.

The Kenyans picked on Monday include Sankai Ole Kantai, Scholastica Omondi, Mburugu Kioga, Jamila Mohammed, S N Mukunya and Mavisi Violet. The committee also picked three international experts proposed by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities headed by Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

“We started with 150 people who were short listed for interviews from which 30 were chosen. From the list we selected 15. This morning we conducted interviews for the 15 and came up with the five names,” said PSC chairman Abdikadir Mohammed said of the selection criteria for the local judges.

The team picked Michael Batarache (Canadian), Jon Cameron (British) and Unity Dow (Batswana) from a list of five forwarded by the Annan team.

The names will now be forwarded to Parliament for adoption before being appointed by President Mwai Kibaki in consultation with Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The court is one of the post-election reform institutions proposed by the Serena mediation team and will help resolve differences that might emerge from the ongoing constitution making process. There were fears that delay in the creation of the court could undermine the review process as already differences have emerged.

A section of Bishops have already filed a case in court challenging the review process for what they termed as ‘lack of enough consultations in the process.’

The PSC called on the Committee of Experts to consult widely and make public their documents.

“We have asked them to share their documents with anyone who wants to see them,” said Mr Mohammed.

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“We know many feel very pessimistic about the country getting a new constitution but we are optimistic and we know this is doable.”

Meanwhile the Kenya Christian Constitutional Forum (KCCF) joined in the foray against the CoE and demanded the resignation of Chairman Nzamba Kitonga, for “failing to discharge his duties effectively.”

Speaking on behalf of more than 30 church leaders, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru said Mr Kitonga should leave so that another Chairman, who will ensure transparency and inclusiveness, is appointed.

“We are simply saying that we are tired of speaking to the walls or to ears that are so deaf that they cannot listen to what the Kenyans are saying,” she said.

KCCF Chairman Gerry Kibarabara said Mr Kitonga had ignored the role of the Reference Group in forming consensus on contentious issues, and threatened to mobilise for the rejection of the draft constitution. “The team demand that Committee of Experts (CoE) makes public all memorandum presented by citizen be made to enhance transparency in the draft of the new constitution,” Mr Kibarabara said..

They also protested the intended action of the Committee of Experts to hand over to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review a draft constitution, saying it was: “In total and blatant disregard of the views expressed several times in the past and a promise in writing that nothing will be done before we were consulted together with all stakeholders.”

The Pentecostal churches are objecting the intended inclusion of Kadhis courts in the draft constitution.

Currently an Act of Parliament provides for a Chief Kadhi and Kadhis Courts, and gives them powers to decide on personal legal issues between Muslims.

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