Over 1m Kenyans comment on draft law

December 17, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 17 – The Committee of Experts on Constitutional review on Thursday said it had received over one million proposals of amendments to the draft Constitution.

Announcing the end of the 30-day window that was given to the public to make their proposals, Committee Chairman Nzamba Kitonga assured Kenyans that all the views would be considered equally.

“No view from any segment of the Kenyan society will be given preferential treatment,” he said. “The Committee will not be swayed or influenced by any extraneous factors other than the mandate conferred upon it by the statute in place.”

The Committee will within 21 days produce a revised draft document to be presented to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution which will make its recommendations. After considering the proposed amendments, the Experts will present a finalised document to the House for adoption. At the floor of the House the MPs can only amend any clause of the law with a 65 percent majority.

The Committee had identified the system of government, modes of devolution and the transitional arrangements as the main contentious issues. While most Kenyans have proposed a two-tier system of devolution there is a sharp difference of opinion on the system of government.

Mr Kitonga said that despite the signs of disagreements on the contentious issues the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution and Parliament still had the opportunity to seek consensus. He said the two have the responsibility ‘to give directions on how best to engage the public on further deliberations in the context of its statutory mandate of building consensus.’

“The power is there within the law for Parliament to influence consensus,” he said.

In his Jamhuri Day message President Mwai Kibaki said the government was committed to gain consensus on the contentious issues before the referendum. Despite a series of meeting the Coalition Management Committee failed to achieve consensus on the system of government. While the Party of National Unity is in support of a powerful elected President their Orange Democratic Movement counterpart is rallying behind an Executive Prime Minister and a ceremonial President.

The Committee said it had distributed over 6 million copies in English, Swahili and Braille. Despite enormous pressure to extend the 30 days period Mr Kitonga ruled out this saying that only Parliament can amend the law to provide for the extension.

“Were it within the powers of the Committee we could have increased it to probably 60 or 90 days,” he said.

Political parties, civil society organisations and other Kenyans rushed to beat the deadline and hand in their proposals.

Attempts by a group of civil society activists to have the High Court to intervene and extend the deadline was thwarted when the court refused to grant injunction and only certified the case as urgent. The matter will now be heard in January.


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