NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 20 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo has opposed plans by Members of Parliament to extend the February 27 constitutional deadline to pass three crucial Bills by a further three months.
Kilonzo told journalists on Monday that there was risk of jeopardising the pace set for the constitutional implementation process, considering the country was heading towards a general election.
He argued that crucial Bills, including those touching on land and devolution, risked being delayed as the country’s focus turned to the forthcoming polls.
“This is a political year and if we increase the timelines, even by an hour, it will create huge setbacks for us. In fact, if you were to analyse the media reports for instance, you will notice that no single politician is talking about the Constitution and the pending laws,” he pointed out.
He further maintained that the one week left before the expiry of the deadline was enough to pass the Bills in Parliament, noting that the legislators had already extended their sittings.
“Extending the deadline by three months means the new timelines will be pushed to May/June so when will we set up the infrastructure required for devolution? And when will we deal with issues of private, public and community land?” he asked.
“If we pass these laws in the fifth-sixth months, we will not have time to interrogate these issues,” he said.
The Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC), on the other hand, insists that the three-month extension sought will ensure that Parliament does not pass shoddy laws, as was witnessed last year.
Kilonzo however dismissed concerns of passing shoddy legislation, arguing that such anomalies could be corrected later.
“I am convinced that whatever errors arise, are less fundamental than breaching the deadlines required by the Constitution. In fact I’m already sorting out the glitches that arose out of last year’s laws,” said Kilonzo.
When the country was rushing to pass the first batch of legislations under the new Constitution, several flawed laws, including the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) Act, were passed in Parliament just to beat the deadline.
None of these laws have been amended.
The Justice Minister also noted that the country could not embark on civic education before the laws on devolution and land were established.
He added that civic education would ensure that the country did not witness a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence.
“How do we start civic education without these crucial laws? Conducting civic education without these laws is very embarrassing and I don’t think people understand the impact of extending the deadline,” he said.
He further asked MPs to exercise restraint before extending the timelines.
“If they want me to kneel down and plead I will, but Kenya needs civic education on elections and the implementation of the Constitution and we cannot start until the land laws and those on devolution are passed,” he stressed.