NAIVASHA, Kenya, Jan 17 – The quest for a new constitution in Kenya entered a crucial stage on Sunday after the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Constitution Review begun a retreat in Naivasha.
Committee members were optimistic of attaining consensus on contentious issues in the revised draft during the weeklong retreat in the Rift Valley.
"Members have already started arriving for the meeting that will formally be opened tomorrow morning," said Vice Chairman Ababu Namwamba.
The Budalangi MP said members were ready to negotiate around contentious issues of the draft with the spirit of give and take.
The 27-member team will use the Naivasha retreat to fine-tune the revised harmonised draft and seek a middle ground on sticky issues before the document is presented to Parliament next month.
"I am optimistic that we will strike a deal on contentious issues that have divided our leaders for a very long time. Expect some white smoke this time round," he said.
The Coalition Management Committee on Thursday evening emerged from a meeting without agreeing on the structure of the Executive and left it to the 27 member committee to strike a deal.
While the Orange Democratic Movement is stuck to its Parliamentary System, the Party of National Unity maintains its quest for a Presidential system.
Mr Namwamba however downplayed the divisions between the coalition partners.
"This constitution is not about ODM or PNU, neither is it about the President or the Prime Minister. All the views expressed by the parties and the leaders must be seen alongside the views of other Kenyans," he said.
The PSC received the revised draft last week and has now two weeks to make its recommendations. However the haggle over the system of government is likely to dominate proceedings of the committee. Deputy 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.
Meanwhile, civil Society members have called upon President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to take charge and reach consensus on the system of government that should be adopted in the new constitution.
The National Civil Society Congress Chairperson Morris Odhiambo told said the two principals were absconding responsibility by delegating the contentious issues to the PSC.
"We have seen that at the level of the Prime Minister and the President there have been substantial disagreements so if you push it to the PSC, are you resolving the problem?" he posed adding that "we know the dynamics of the committee, it is largely dominated by the same sides."
He pledged that members of the civil society under the banner of the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’Katiba Sasa Campaign\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ would support any system so long as it has adequate checks and balances to guard against its abuse.
If the parties failed to end the stalemate, Mr Odhiambo proposed the second option which would be to adopt the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’Yes- Yes\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ referendum..
"If politicians recognised the political necessity to provide for two draft documents, it will be done. It will not take long to review the Act," he said while making reference to how speedily the National Accord was legislated.
Mr Odhiambo said they welcomed Mr Namwamba\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s remarks that \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’failure is not an option.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’
"We are happy with the comments but we hope that is not informed by political shenanigans," he added.