SA experts urge Kenyans to agree on law review

December 10, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 10 – Two leading South African Constitutional experts on Thursday advised Kenyans against going to a referendum until they have built consensus and resolved contentious issues in the Harmonised Draft Constitution.

Roelf Meyer, who is a former Constitutional Affairs Minister and one of the negotiators during South Africa\\\’s transition from apartheid, told a meeting of political party representatives that is the only way that Kenyans can be sure of getting a new supreme law.

“Don’t go into that referendum without consensus between the people of Kenya because if you do that you will continue with divisions instead of building consensus,” Mr Meyer said.

He said Kenya needs selfless political leadership to reach an agreement and present to the public a document that unites the country for generations to come.

Another expert Mohammed Bhabha who served as the ANC constitutional negotiator said: “If I am going to negotiate a Constitution on the mindset that I am the majority and I am going to muscle my way in now, it is parochial.  What goes around comes around and next year or in the next election, the shoe might be in the other foot.  You’d rather look at the protection of the political parties in total instead of me.”

The experts called on the two Principals to rally their troops for the sake of the Constitution saying that the public will follow their lead.

Mr Bhabha said Kenyans have to own the process and urged politicians to use the document to unite Kenyans.

He said trust among all players was necessary to make the process succeed: “The constitutional making process should start addressing the issue of cynicism and that can only be done with honesty and sincerity but also creating system of accountability in the Constitution that will enable the ordinary people to ensure that their interests will be protected in the organs we present.”

They told the forum that the process cannot succeed if each side in the political divide insists on achieving what it wants

The experts have recommended that the draft should not be overloaded with details about devolution of power.

“If we start amending a Constitution too many people will start losing credibility in it.  So if we put a framework that is guided by values and principles, then every bit of legislation that comes out Parliament will be tested by a constitutional court.”
He assured that Parliament’s recess will not delay the process under the timelines provided in the Review Act.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution Review Mohamed Abdikadir urged his parliamentary colleagues to stop wrangling and instead seek consensus on the system of government proposed in the harmonised draft.

Mr Abdikadir said leaders should debate the merits of each system to create a government that will suit Kenyans.

He said Kenyans must avoid challenges such as bad faith and lack of trust amongst each other that led to the rejection of the Bomas process.

At the same time he ruled out the option of a Yes-Yes Referendum saying:  “What you will end up doing is one half of the country saying this is our draft and another saying this is ours and instead of voting on one document you actually multiply our problems by two.”

They were speaking during an Inter-Parliamentary Parties Forum on the Constitution aimed at giving Kenyans an insight into South Africa’s law making experience.


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