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Anxiety as Kenyan MPs retreat

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 – Kenya entered a crucial stage of the constitution making journey on Monday when the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Constitution Review kicked off a week-long retreat in the lake-side resort of Naivasha to seek consensus on the contentious issues.

The 26-member committee got down to work at the Great Rift Valley Lodge amidst a general understanding that consensus must carry the day over the hard stances taken by the major political parties.

“At this great venue great results are expected of us,” said PSC Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed while appreciating “the enormity of the task ahead of the team.”

“I have no illusion about the task and I am sure we can achieve it.”

The Coalition Management Committee on Thursday evening emerged from a meeting without agreeing on the structure of the Executive and left it to the PSC to strike a deal. While the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is stuck to its Parliamentary System, the Party of National Unity (PNU) maintains its quest for a Presidential system.

The team will debate the revised draft constitution as produced by the Committee of Experts (CoE) over a week ago and make its recommendations. The PSC is the key group mandated to negotiate the law on behalf of the nation. The committee is charged with the political responsibility of the process.

The membership of PSC comprises ODM and PNU legislators together with their affiliate parties. ODM now has 12 legislators in the team, after the nullification of Omingo Magara’s seat while PNU and its affiliates have 14.

Vice Chairman Ababu Namwamba, in his opening address, said the negotiations should be beyond ethnic, party and regional interests to ensure consensus. He appreciated the different opinions expressed but was optimistic of a deal.

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“Making a constitution is not a church service neither is it a wedding ceremony. This is a difficult task that involves negotiation for configuration of State power,” he said.

“Anything that involves configuration of power cannot be easy.”

The PSC has two weeks to make its recommendations. Deputy Prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi (ODM) and Uhuru Kenyatta (PNU) will be leading their respective teams in the negotiations likely to overshadow discussions on other matters.

The Parliamentary Committee has planned to ‘negotiate’ for a week and spend the other week drafting their report. The Committee of Experts settled on a ‘compromise hybrid system’ saying the country was equally divided between Parliamentary and Presidential systems and urged the parliamentarians to give direction on the matter.

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