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Kenyan MPs clash over Constitution

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 – A consensus building retreat on the proposed Constitution got off to a divisive start with the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) trading barbs over contentious issues.

ODM pulled out the first card by demanding the return of three levels of devolution (National, Regional and County) as originally proposed by the Committee of Experts instead of the two tiers in the current draft.

Minutes after the retreat opened, ODM Chairman Henry Kosgey convened a news conference and stated the party’s “bare minimums”. He said the party would be fighting to retain a powerful Senate and shove off proposals to relegate it to the lower House.
PNU however accused ODM of engaging in sideshows which will hinder consensus building.  ODM was initially opposed to the retreat and has been fronting the adoption of the document as it is.

PNU on the other hand wanted amendments made to increase the number of counties, the removal of a clause demanding fresh vetting of judges and another one stating that the President shall consult the Prime Minister in making appointments to constitutional offices and the public service.

ODM now wants at least 35 percent of the revenue raised by the Central government devolved, with 20 percent going to the regions, 10 percent to counties and five percent to the constituency. Mr Kosgey said the party would push for amendments to the chapter on land.

Opening the crucial talks, Speaker Kenneth Marende told members to avoid hard-line positions and approach debate with an open mind. He said although no amendments to the proposed Constitution can be made at the forum, MPs ought to remain consistent with the resolutions that will be adopted, and avoid shifting positions when the House resumes next Tuesday.

“Resolutions made in this forum will be persuasive rather than binding. However being the honourable members one would expect that once persuaded will remain persuaded and therefore persistent until delivery,” he said.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution Review Abdikadir Mohammed reminded MPs of the critical part their deliberations will play in the review process.

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“The weakest link to the review process is political. However it is also its biggest hope. Parliament is the one institution other than the referendum that has the mandate to make a critical vote,” he said.

Vice Chairman Ababu Namwamba told his colleagues that the country was looking to them to close ranks on divisive issues.

“Every process needs leaders that are willing to stand beyond the obvious and ordinary,” he said naming ethnicity and selfish party interests as key blocks to the success of the process.

“This country is crying out for leadership; this process is crying out for champions.”

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