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Be wary of the lies, Kenyans told

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – The Committee of Experts on Constitutional review (CoE) has raised the alarm over falsehoods being peddled on the proposed Constitution by “self proclaimed civic educators.”

Chairman Nzamba Kitonga accused a section of politicians, church leaders and the civil society of misleading the country on the provisions of the draft and promised to carry out extensive civic education once the Attorney General publishes the document in readiness for the referendum.

Mr Kitonga said the interested parties were distorting the facts especially on the contentious issues of land, abortion, Kadhis courts and the system of government.

“There is a claim of an imperial Presidency but there is nothing like that. You well know that we have a strong Judiciary and a Senate that can impeach the President. Presidential appointments will also be approved by Parliament,” said the Chairman in response to claims propagated by Agriculture Minister William Ruto and others.

“There is also the ridiculous claim that (for) those with 10 acres of land half will be taken away. The constitution clearly states the limit on land will cover those with hundreds of thousands of acres of idle land and it will be carefully negotiated.”

Mr Kitonga also accused church leaders of perpetuating falsehoods with claims that the draft allows abortion. He said the vice is clearly outlawed and a contentious clause empowering doctors to allow for the termination of pregnancy was included in good faith to protect mothers in emergency situations.

At the press conference on Tuesday, the committee announced that it was set to roll out a comprehensive civic campaign to educate Kenyans and fight the falsehoods.

The Director of the CoE Ekuru Aukot said they would release a summarised pamphlet, a handbook and fliers that clearly explain the new law to the citizens which will be distributed through an extensive network.

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The committee, he said, had recruited 15 provincial co-coordinators and 210 constituency civic educators who would conduct the exercise across the country in partnership with vetted organisations.

“The handbook will tell Kenyans what is contained in the draft and will be almost like the ‘bible’ that people will have as the reference point.

Dr Aukot said the committee would partner with various organisations up to the grassroots level.

“We have agreed with them that we will standardise civic education material and that nobody else is going to produce any other material. We will be distributing the material to them,” he added.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have in the last month campaigned for the draft and recently visited Meru and the Coast Province respectively.  Mr Ruto is fronting the ‘No’ campaign and has received backing from a number of Rift Valley MPs.

Church leaders who are opposing the Kadhis courts are also rolling out a strong campaign both at their meetings and through the Internet.

“The constitution clearly states that these courts will have jurisdiction for Muslims and deal with matters of inheritance, marriage and family. Those saying it will be used to spread Islam are lying,” countered Mr Kitonga.

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