, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 28 – The government has vowed to oppose a last-minute attempt by a section of backbench Members of Parliament to suspend the August 4 referendum.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo said on Monday that he would lead the government’s objection to a Motion by Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau that seeks to compel the government to halt the referendum and re-open negotiations with opponents of the proposed Constitution.
“Out of my personal experience in Constitution making, there can never be consensus. If there was consensus we would not need a referendum,” asserted Mr Kilonzo.
Mr Kamau’s Motion seeks consensus over the contentious issues of land, abortion and Kadhis’ Courts raised by the No camp. He is supported by Limuru MP Peter Mwathi and Kitutu Masaba’s Walter Nyambati who argue that suspending the vote would ensure that the issues are addressed and evident divisions in the country resolved.
The Kigumo MP had said they would raise the matter during a Parliamentary group meeting of the Yes team that was held on Monday morning, but he did not turn up for the talks.
“I have no guarantee that there will ever come a time when we get consensus,” said Mr Kilonzo while dismissing the idea.
The Minister said the fate of the proposed Constitution should be resolved in the August referendum and allow the country to institute major reforms including electoral reforms ahead of the 2012 elections.
“No country has ever solved the abortion tussle to the satisfaction of everybody. It is either pro-life or pro-choice. Actually, we are better off because ours is in the middle where the opinion of a trained health profession will be required for any termination,” he said in reference to the abortion debate.
On land, Mr Kilonzo accused Higher Education Minister William Ruto of being dishonest by opposing provisions he earlier supported in the Cabinet and at the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution.
“The Land Policy which is a replica of the land chapter, was unanimously passed in Parliament,” he added.
For an amendment to be effected in the Constitution making calendar it needs the support of at least 148 MPs.
Mr Kilonzo spoke when he received a donation of Sh110 million from the Japanese government for civic education. He in the meantime criticised politicians for turning referendum campaigns into 2012 succession politics.
“They have failed to tell Kenyans the contents of the draft and why this document is good or bad,” he said.
The Director of the Committee of Experts Ekuru Aokot said they are now well funded to undertake civic education. He said resources from the State and development partners had made the exercise smooth. The committee had slow start for the exercise owing to insufficient state funding and misunderstanding from Treasury.