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Disquiet as Kenyans await draft law

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 16 – Hours before the harmonised draft constitution is unveiled for 30 days of public debate, members of the civil society say when Kenya eventually goes to a referendum, there should be three drafts presented for a vote.

Kenya for Justice and Development Director Okiya Omtatah Okoiti says the separate drafts should include a Parliamentary, Presidential and Hybrid system of government which are the key issues under contention.

“Instead of imposing the hybrid system on the country, the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review (CoE) should present three drafts; which should then be subjected to a yes-yes referendum where the winning constitution should obtain a 50 percent plus one vote at the ballot,” he told a news conference on Monday.

The groups suggest that if none attains that threshold, then the first and second drafts should go for a runoff where the one winning with simple majority will become the new Constitution for the Republic of Kenya.

He says they are backing an American Presidential System that separates and diffuses power since it promotes cohesion and establishes checks on the government.

“The provincial administration and the set up of the regions today is the main problem of inequality in this country and so those things have to go before we can devolve.”

Mr Omtatah said: “In the American system, power is not centered in one point.  Power is diffused and the country is secure because at one point once you create scarcity then you create a scramble for the scarce resources.  The scramble for the power here is informed by the fact that power is very scarce in this country.”

The Committee of Experts is expected to make the much awaited harmonised draft constitution public on Tuesday.

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After it is made public, Kenyans will be given 30 days to scrutinise the draft and suggest amendments.

The document will then be handed over to MPs, triggering a series of activities that will, hopefully, give Kenyans a new set of laws by June next year.

However, the lobbyists says the period is insufficient and too limiting saying that it is aimed at denying Kenyans the change to ventilate issues in the draft.

“Looking at the number of constituencies, I wonder how we are going to deal with it. That would mean doing 70 constituencies a day without a break. But if proper structures are put in place whereby the campaign is rolled out within the 30 days in every constituency concurrently, it will be enough time but one day per constituency in 30 days it will not be adequate,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister William Ruto has called for sobriety during debate on contentious issues in the draft law.

He urged Kenyans to scrutinise the draft carefully and give feedback immediately its is released to the public.

Mr Ruto also says the coalition government is better placed to deliver a new law noting that parties that were opposing each other during the last referendum were now in the same government.

He wants leaders to put aside their political and personal differences and support the delivery of a new constitution.

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