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LSK, civil society against Naivasha retreat

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14- The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and Civil Society groups have opposed a retreat by Members of Parliament that is aimed at building consensus on the contentious issues in the Proposed Constitution.

LSK through Chairman Okongo Omogeni expressed its fears that MPs might mutilate sections of the draft as proposed by the Committee of Experts (CoE) for their own political gains.

LSK instead proposed that any debate should be done in Parliament where the public can follow the proceedings.

“We would like our MPs to fully adhere to the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya Review Act and commence debate on the Proposed Constitution in Parliament and in line with the spirit of the Act to enable Kenyans to follow the proceedings through live coverage by the National Broadcaster, KBC,” he said during a press conference.

The Act, he said provide that any sticky issues be ironed out though a meeting that brings together the Parliamentary Select Committee, the Reference Group and the Committee of Experts.

“The MPs cannot resolve contentious issues to the exclusion of the CoE and the reference group,” he stated.

He accused the legislators of playing politics with the constitutional making process but urged them to be guided by the law and not self interests.

“This country should be spared these unnecessary political shenanigans, gimmicks and theatrics and intrigues. It can be said that the real intent and purpose of such machinations do at best amount to pure sabotage or malice if not altogether a source of national betrayal,” Mr Omogeni added.

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While acknowledging that some gains had been made in the Proposed Constitution that would improve governance in the country, he asked Kenyans to be alert to ensure that the politicians do not amend some fundamental provisions in the new law.

Some of the positive proposals, the Chairman said included a strong Senate which would institute checks and balances in the Presidential system and which would guarantee the functions of the Counties.

“The Counties should be left strong and not watered down as that will negate the principle of devolution,” he said and called for the protection of the chapter on fundamental Rights and Freedom.

In a separate press briefing civil society groups under the banner of National Civil Society Congress said that they were opposed to the opening up of the Proposed Constitution for debate.

Kituo cha Sheria Executive Director Priscilla Kanyua said subjecting the Proposed Constitution to debate would see the gains made repealed from the Constitution.

Ms Kanyua also said Parliament should discuss the draft in the House with live coverage but not at a retreat in Naivasha or elsewhere.

“If the debate was more towards positive issues and positive progression, I think we might have a different view,” Ms Kanyua said.

“But the history that has guided us in this- the earlier Naivasha in 2005, the Kilifi, all of them show that every time the MP’s touch the document what we see is just self interest. And at no time do we ever see public interest so that’s why we are saying at this particular time let’s have the document as it is,” she said.

Constitution and Reform Education Consortium Executive Director Kawive Wambua said there was malice on the part of the government for failure to allocate funds for civic education.

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“We would like to remind the government that it is its primary responsibility to allocate resources for civic education and for the referendum. We are aware that last week the IIEC(Interim Independent Electoral Commission) said they had only been given Sh1.2 billion whereas they had requested for Sh7 billion to have this process completed,” Mr Wambua said.

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