What could make or break Kenya

The quest for a new constitution now hinges on three contentious issues that have been identified by the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review.

If all goes well, a new constitution could be in place as early as April, next year. However, the three issues that require consensus could either make or break a nation that has been pursuing the quest for a new constitution for about two decades. And now the Attorney General Amos Wako has assured Kenyans that by April Kenyans would go to a referendum to endorse a new constitution.

The weighty issues Kenyans have to grapple with are the system of government; how to devolve government; and transition from the current constitution to the new dispensation.

Wako said the new constitution could be ready latest by April. A referendum is expected any time from February and latest April.

The experts identified the three contentious issues after scrutiny of existing draft constitutions, related documents and 12,080 memoranda from the public.

Consequently, the committee has asked the public to submit memoranda on how they wish the contentious issues resolved. The public has up to June 29 to submit proposals.

Submit proposals
On the system of governance, the committee said while there is agreement the executive and legislative authorities must be exercised for the benefit of the people, Kenyans are not in agreement on the preferred relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

Kenyans need to submit proposals on whether they prefer a presidential, hybrid, or a parliamentary system of government.

Under the presidential system where the President is directly elected by the people and is Head of State and Government, and a Vice-President as a running mate, the experts are asking whether Kenyans want a president and ministers who are not Members of Parliament.

The hybrid system would have the Prime Minister and the President share power like in the current set-up but the experts need to know how Kenyans want the two to share power.

And the experts are asking if Kenyans prefer a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister is the Head of Government and chosen from Parliament. There may be a ceremonial president as a representative Head of State.

Hybrid system
The two main political parties ODM and PNU have expressed different views with the former preferring a parliamentary system while the latter prefers a hybrid system.

However, the most interesting matter and potentially divisive is on whether the terms of political leaders and Parliament should end when a new constitution comes into force. The experts are asking the public whether the terms of the President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, Deputy Prime Ministers, Cabinet ministers and MPs should be terminated when the new law comes into effect.

Preferred name
At a consultative forum for editors and journalists at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi, Chairman of the Committee of Experts, Nzamba Kitonga, said there is also contention on what role and powers a lower House (Parliament) would play. Views are also divergent on the preferred name of the second House.

Kitonga expressed optimism a consensus would be reached before the draft is handed over to Parliament for endorsement.

“We will carry out thematic consultations and hope to build proper consensus before the draft goes to Parliament,” said Kitonga.

After perusing the constitutional materials and public submissions the committee also found that there is agreement that powers of government should not be centralised.

But what is in contention is whether there should be only two or more levels of devolved government.

The committee would also like to receive views on how the coming into force of the new constitution would affect holders of unelected constitutional positions or offices such as the Auditor-General, the Attorney General and judges.

The vice-chairperson of the Committee of Experts Atsango Chesoni said the three areas of contention that have been identified are fundamental and must be addressed.

Political parties
“These are areas that can break the review if not addressed and that is why we are asking Kenyans to submit their proposals on how they wish these issues addressed,” she said.

Kitonga said the committee is treating views of the political parties just like any other group, noting that the people of Kenya own the process.

“We will not be obsessed with views of political parties. This is a process for all Kenyans and we would not be singularly obsessed with the views of some groups,” said Kitonga.

Wako and Kitonga called upon the media to report objectively for the public to fairly assess the process, with Wako expressing hope a new law would be attained this time round.

“Im now tired and I would really want that we have a new constitution so that I can peacefully retire to my Busia home,” said Wako.

Other experts who were at the forum were Ekuru Aukot (Director), Njoki Ndungu, Christina Murray, Chaloka Beyani, Otiende Amollo, Abdirashid Abdullahi and Frederick Ssempebwa.

The Standard

Post published in: Zimbabwe News

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