NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo has said that it is impossible for Kenyans to get more time to familiarise themselves with the draft constitution.
Mr Mutula said the 30 days set for Kenyans to go through the constitution would not be extended, as the country could not afford to buy more time in order to get a new constitution. He stated that Kenya had enormous challenges ahead and had to have a constitution to guide its 2012 election, which needed constitutional law to determine how many constituencies there were and how people would vote.
“The period will not be extended. Read my lips. We have debated a constitution for 20 years and this journey started long ago. To extend the 30-day period is to look for trouble. The government would like to finish this process by June next year so that all those who want to become president and prime minister can then know the sort of governance structures expected,” he explained.
Mr Mutula further said that voter registration would also be done in time for the referendum and proposed the hybrid system of governance for Kenya, saying that all other governance forms had failed in the past.
“We have already tried the parliamentary system under President Jomo Kenyatta and it took only a year for that system to be dropped. We have tried the executive president again under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, President Moi and President Kibaki. We have tried the hybrid which is the system now enabling us to stand here and I think it is the way to go,” he stated.
He further explained that the draft constitution did not have any centre of power thereby ruling out the possibility of two centres of power.
“The draft constitution has no centre of power because it is this so called centre of power that has created the problems that we have now. The end result is that whoever holds that power thinks that he can reward his cronies by sustaining corruption and impunity. Therefore the draft constitution looked at from both political and legal point of view is a function of the responsibility you have. The concept of centre of power is very old politics and very old constitution,” he explained.
Mr Mutula also pointed out that Administration Police (AP) had not been mentioned in the draft constitution, adding that he had received some objections from across the country on the issue of APs, which he would forward to the Committee of Experts.
“I respect the APs and I consider them to have a clean record (if you ignore some instances of the post election violence). I have always believed that an institution set up in 1903 ought not to be wished away and I don’t think the committee should confuse provincial administration with Administration Police because although the two institutions work together, they are separate,” he said.
The Minister further stated that it was not possible for Kenyans to get two or three drafts of the proposed constitution as it was against the law and that it would mislead the country.
“We passed a law for this process and we did not ask for two drafts. We only wanted one and besides the key word is harmonised. This is not an invention of the Committee of Experts. It is a harmonised draft, which means the committee looked at the Kilifi draft, the Waki draft, the Naivasha Accord, the current constitution and above all they looked at all the written memoranda that Kenyans sent forth,” he said, although stressing that he still had reservations with regards to the draft constitution.
“Please note that I am not saying the draft is perfect. I have issues with some of the clauses and I think it needs more polishing. However we are going all the way and must produce a new constitution.”
The Justice Minister also added that civic education could not start to educate the common citizen on the pros and cons of the draft constitution explaining that it was not yet necessary as it would be conducted before the referendum.
“At this point we cannot start civic education because the draft constitution is still a proposal. However let me salute the committee of experts for availing it as a pull out in local papers to ensure this draft is available to the wider public,” he said.
He noted that the public had shown tremendous interest in the draft constitution and promised that more copies would be re-printed and availed in Kiswahili.
“The Committee of Experts says that they have ordered a re-print of another 500 copies. I however intend to inquire if they could increase this number and I think the public is entitled to see it in both English and Kiswahili. For those who have access to the internet the document is already available both in English and Kiswahili on the website of the committee of experts,” he noted.
The Justice Minister also cautioned politicians, the civil society and other private groups of people against voting out the draft constitution before reading and understanding its contents adequately.
“Let me now address the special groups who have engaged in debate on particular issues and think that the proposals do not address their requirements. I’m simply asking them to look at that document (and this includes the media for heaven’s sake) and say how it can be polished to better reflect their wishes without presenting us with ultimatums and conditions before accepting it. If you think the president should be both Head of government, Head of state and god just say so,” he said.
Mr Mutula also reminded the Kenyan public that it was illegal for anyone to incite or make hateful speech with regards to the constitution.
“Please remember that the national, cohesion and integration act (section 62) bans people from making contemptuous, attacking and inciting speeches particularly at this delicate moment. Everyone has a right to voice out their opinions and even demand that a whole section of the constitution be removed but do not derail the process,” he stated.
The thirty day period given to Kenyans to read through the draft constitution was proposed by politicians. They will get 21 days after the public finishes giving its views