Kenya cautioned on reform calls

October 15, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – Different stakeholders are calling for caution in the clamour for minimum constitutional reforms with fears that this could distract the comprehensive review.

The Law Society of Kenya Chairman Okong’o Omogeni on Thursday said he feared that piecemeal reforms have the potential of diverting the country’s attention from the comprehensive review.

Mr Omogeni said that although some of the proposals by the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) were necessary, the enactment would need a delicate balancing act to ensure that the work of the Committee of Experts (CoE) was not interfered with. He said that the CoE was capable of delivering a new law if it received the necessary political will. 

“In as much as they are good it should not be used to distract the country from the main purpose we embarked on this process which is to overhaul the law and have a new Constitution that meets the challenge of our country,” he said in expressing his reservations.

The NCCK on Wednesday called for fixed five-year terms for the Attorney General and the Chief Justice and the requirement of 50 percent plus one of total votes in the presidential election. The Protestant churches expressed fears that Kenya is unlikely to have a new constitution by 2012 and the reforms would act as a buffer to ensure stability, free and fair elections.

“While Kenyans must not relent in the quest for a comprehensive constitutional review, they do need to appreciate that the review process may either abort or take longer than the remaining term of the current Parliament,” NCCK Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja said on Wednesday.

However Lands Minister James Orengo rejected the piecemeal review saying that previous ‘incremental amendments of the Constitution were part of the problem with the current law.’

“This is the constitutional moment for Kenya and it is time to have a new Constitution and we should not run from it for whatever reason,” Mr Orengo, an ardent campaigner for a new law said.

Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi on his part challenged the CoE to address issues that have been raised by interest groups and avert a crisis.

“This clamour is a wake up call to tell us to put our act together,” Rev Musyimi, another crusader for constitution reforms said.

Former Kabete MP Paul Muite however supported the clamour saying there was no certainty of when the new Constitution will be in place, the essential reforms are a sure way to bring in governance change and ensure free and fair elections come 2012.

“It is a good starting point for the country to stabilise,” said the former legislator.

Mr Muite who chaired the House Committee on Legal Affairs in the 9th Parliament led a similar push of his committee prior to the 2007 election but this was rejected by the Executive.

“The current government as constituted does not have the capacity to implement Agenda Four and it is up to the MPs to bring a bill in the House for these changes,” he said.


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