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Kenya churches demand minimum reforms

LIMURU, Kenya, Oct 14 – The National Council of Churches of Kenya now wants minimum Constitution reforms implemented by next February, claiming that disagreements are likely to undermine prospects of a new draft by 2012.

Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja cautioned on Wednesday that the current disagreements and complaints of non- inclusiveness are bound to frustrate the process, but the minimum reforms would act as a buffer. Canon Karanja said the reforms “will ensure the stability of the country with or without a new Constitution.”

“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,” he said.

The Council is urging Parliament to amend the law to increase the threshold for electing a President from the current simple majority to fifty percent plus one vote cast in an election and also fix the election date to be the first Tuesday of December in the fifth year of each parliamentary term.

“With this threshold it becomes impossible for any unpopular person because he can mobilise one or two blocks to become President of a country with 42 tribes when the majority has rejected him,” he said. “I think Parliamentarians as a minimum owe us this comfort.”

Canon Karanja added that the council would want the control of the calendar of Parliament be removed from the President and transferred to Parliament itself in order to reduce the control that the President has over the house.

“In order to ensure that the checks and balances of the various arms of government are effective, we propose that the Constitution be amended to require that whenever the constitution or the law requires that the President appoints or reappoints a key public officer, then the same be subjected to approval  by Parliament,” he said.

The council also wants the terms of the Attorney General and Chief Justice limited to five years with the possibility of a single renewal.

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“The prosecution function should be de-linked from the Attorney General and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions established and strengthened. The Director of Public Prosecutions should be appointed for a term of five years renewable once,” proposed the council.

The clamour for a new Constitution started close to two decades ago and is always faced with new hurdles. In 2005 Kenyans in a referendum rejected a proposed draft with main differences being on ‘devolution’ and the inclusion of the Kadhis courts in the constitution. Already a group of bishops have filed a case in court to object to the review claiming it is non-inclusive.

The minimum reforms call comes amidst complaints from the civil society and political parties that the Committee of Experts had failed to satisfactorily consult relevant stakeholders in the process. A Christian lobby has objected to the view taken by the experts that the inclusion of the Kadhis courts in the Constitution was not contentious.

“Any recklessness on the part of the Committee of Experts and Parliament is unstoppable except at the referendum and it will be tragic for them to manage the review process and then it results to the rejection of the draft at the referendum,” Canon Karanja cautioned.

NCCK also proposed the revision of the terms of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission.

“Whereas the law provides that the two shall be dissolved after either 24 months in office or three months after a new constitution is promulgated, we propose amendments to provide that the commissions be dissolved three months after the promulgation of a new constitution or as may be provided for in the transition mechanisms of the new constitution.

Parliament they add should pass all necessary legal, administrative and constitutional provisions proposed by these bodies to enable them execute their mandate.

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