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Debate draft law soberly, Kenyans urged

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 1- A member of the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review is urging Kenyans to drop their hard-line stance as the country looks for a new Constitution.

Speaking to Capital News, Professor Christina Murray who is an expert from South Africa said politicians should be ready to make compromises on some of the contentious issues that are emerging.

She said the country should have adopted proposals made by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission that was headed by Professor Yash Pal Ghai.

“What you are interested in is what are the basic underlying values that Kenyans want and that some of greater control over the Executive, more accountability and more people should have a say in how the Executive does. We have proposed a model that we think will work best, you can’t have both presidential and the parliamentary system,” Prof Murray said.

“So it’s going to be a matter of talking very hard to Kenyans and to politicians and seeing what one can achieve.”

The Experts have been accused for working for political interests after they came up with a hybrid system that seems to give executive authority to the PM while the President is largely ceremonial.

Drawing on her experience during the constitution making process in her native country, Prof Murray said she was most impressed by the degree to which people were determined to reach an agreement.  She served on a panel of seven experts advising the South African Constitutional Assembly, in drafting South Africa\’s \’final\’ Constitution.

“Many compromises were made in the South African process because many of the negotiations were with the politicians – the outgoing apartheid government and the incoming African National Congress under (Nelson) Mandela and particularly what the ANC kept saying to itself we got certain principles that we are not going to depart from – but we know we can achieve those principles in different ways and we should not stuck with one particular model,” she said.

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At the same time she said Kenyans should read and debate the harmonised draft widely, so they can also focus on issues that will also help in developing cohesion and equity in the nation.

Meanwhile with 16 days left for Kenyans to give their views on the draft Constitution, the CoE says the number of submissions received on the harmonised draft is overwhelming.

Prof Murray said that most Kenyans were raising suggestions on technical matters of the draft as well as issues they viewed as contentious.

The Constitution Review Act provides for a 30-day period after the release of the draft for Kenyans to debate and make submissions to the committee. 

“I am amazed that we are already receiving submissions, what I expected is an avalanche of submissions at the end of the 30 days but are obviously already engaged and sending in ideas,” she said.

“In the technical one people are saying we support this idea – for instance you should have this kind of electoral system, this kind of financial management and some little technical detail about how our laws go through Parliament but actually you haven’t thought about this problem can you deal with it.” 

Professor Murray cited the chapter on the Bill of Rights as one of the chapters Kenyans should take note of as it provides for what the citizen should expect from the state.

“I think there are some crucial chapters to read for instance people should the chapter on the Bill of Rights, on leader and government because that is a chapter that is trying to turn Kenya around and I think it might be a first in the world to have in a constitution a set of values that the leaders of the country should adhere to,” she said.

She said the committee is working on releasing a 20-page summary of the harmonised draft to make it more accessible and they are holding grassroots outreach meetings as well.

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