Only one draft at Kenya referendum

November 17, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – The Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review says the law only allows them to present one final draft to next year’s referendum.

Committee Chairman Nzamba Kitonga said on Tuesday that the law would have to be amended to consider proposals for a Yes-Yes vote in the plebiscite expected in March or April 2009.

“There has been demand for a Yes-Yes document, but the current statute that provides a road map for this process does not allow a Yes-Yes referendum.  So, the referendum shall be based on one draft,” he told a news conference soon after launching the harmonised draft constitution in Nairobi.

Mr Kitonga was optimistic that the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) would have prepared a voters’ register by the time the country goes to the referendum.

The IIEC has said registration of voters will start in January.

Mr Kitonga urged Kenyans to focus on the gains made in the draft and avoid sideshows likely to frustrate it.

The draft launched on Tuesday provides for social, economic and political change after harmonising previous constitutional drafts and factoring views from various groups.

The reduction of presidential powers is a key aspect of the new draft.

Other proposals include the creation of a Senate which shall consist of members elected by counties.  It will also include two women each elected by the regions.

Persons with disabilities and the youth will also pick representatives to the Senate.

Persons with disabilities have been protected in the draft which advocates for their accessibility to all public places and public transport. 

The draft is also has gains for women with a provision that not more than two thirds of the members of the National Assembly shall be of the same gender.

Dual citizenship has also been included in the draft as well as the protection of children.

The draft proposes “that a child’s mother and father whether married to each other or not, have equal responsibility to protect and provide for the child.”

This is expected to provide relief for single mothers who bear the burden of bringing up children borne out of wedlock.  The draft further says that every child has a right to be protected from discrimination, harmful cultural rites and practices, exploitation, neglect or abuse.

This will help fight female genital mutilation still affecting children from some Kenyan communities and also sexual abuse which has been on a steady rise in the country.

Under this provision: “A child will not take part in hostilities or be recruited into armed conflicts. Children with special needs are entitled to the special protection of the State and society.”

The draft also calls for every child to be assigned an advocate by the State and at the State’s expense in proceedings affecting the child.

For the first time, the electorate will have an opportunity to recall their Member of Parliament but sadly, the same Parliament has to enact legislation to provide for the grounds on which a member maybe recalled.

Under the new draft there are only three public holidays namely, Madaraka Day observed on June 1, Mashujaa Day (now Kenyatta Day) marked on October 20 and Jamhuri Day observed on December 12.

Moi Day will be abolished altogether, but Parliament through legislation can make provision for additional public holidays.


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