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Women leaders welcome extra MPs

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – The Mandeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) has supported a proposal by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review (PSC) to increase the number of parliamentary seats from the current 222 to 356.

MYWO Chairperson Rukia Subow said on Tuesday that the proposal was neither too ambitious nor too expensive as Kenyans could afford it if the country ended corruption in public and private institutions.

She explained that the country would lose more money through corruption than it would by paying salaries for the extra 134 parliamentarians.

“They said that it will not be economically viable to have more seats in Parliament but we are a rich country. Where does the money go? We know as Kenyans that the money which goes to people’s pockets through fraud and theft is more than the money the few women who go to Parliament will be paid. We know there is enough money in this country which can sustain the Parliament even if it is four hundred members,” she said.

The women’s organisation however took issue with the PSC’s proposal to scrap the human rights clause from the harmonised draft saying the move was uncalled for. Ms Subow explained that by doing so the PSC was breaching it duties.

“They should be looking at the 20 percent that was contentious not reviewing what had already been agreed upon by Kenyans. If we leave out the human rights issue from the Constitution then we are actually weakening the system. The PSC is overstepping its mandate and it should stop,” said Rahab Muiu, the second Vice National Chairperson.

Ms Subow further appealed to the PSC to make proposals in the harmonised draft that would protect the country from repeats of election violence saying the draft had the power to make or break the country.

“The ghost of 2007 post election violence still haunts us and the PSC must start the national healing process by giving Kenyans laws for the benefit of all and not for a few. As Kenyans we should rise above the petty politics that we had in 2007,” she said.

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The MYWO further implored the PSC to ensure that it removed any uncertainties or clauses that would imply that homosexuality and abortion were legal.

“We urge the PSC to tread carefully on any ambiguity that may be construed or interpreted to allow same sex marriage. Marriage must be between persons of opposite sex and this must be clearly stated so as to avoid legalising same sex marriages. The PSC must also define life as beginning at conception to avoid legalising abortion,” said Ms Subow.

She added that the organisation rooted for a presidential system of governance as proposed by the PSC saying the President would act as a symbol of national unity in the country. She added that the PSC was charged with ensuring that Kenyans’ interests were taken care of.

“We remind the PSC that it owes it to the millions of Kenyans to deliver on this. Kenyans have spoken and they made submissions to the Committee of Experts on the kind of laws they want. This time around the birth of a new Constitution should become a reality and not just another mirage,” she said.

The organisation was also of the position that the proposed devolution system would help Kenya grow economically saying: “The aim of devolution is being distorted but it is supposed to ensure that money trickles down to the common person; from the central government to the provinces and counties and finally to the constituents.”

Ms Subow also defended the PSC against allegations that it had favoured women parliamentarians. She said the proposal to create 54 special seats for women, aside from the 290 elected seats and 12 nominated seats was commendable and needful.

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