Sunday, November 22, 2009

Debate centres around sharing of power between president and prime minister

By NATION Team

The sharing of power between the president and the prime minister was one of the hottest issues of discussion as Kenyans debated the new constitution.

Kadhi courts and devolution also attracted attention, as debate on the draft enters its second week. Kenyans now have three weeks to debate the draft law and propose changes.

Among those who gave their responses on the draft was Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Njeru Githae who said it needed to be amended to “represent the views of majority Kenyans”.

He said he did not think the Committee of Experts, charged with writing the new constitution, had given Kenyans the document they wanted.

“Having two centres of powers is a recipe for chaos and the committee should stop experimenting on the lives of our people,” he said at Nguini-ini Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kirinyaga West district.

Derail the process

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka asked leaders to be tolerant so that the new constitution can be passed. He said the draft would help the country achieve many things that it has been yearning for.

Speaking in Eldoret at the weekend, Mr Musyoka cautioned politicians not to say things that might derail the process.

“Politicians should not utter things that can ruin the process and the country like what happened last year,” he said.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula also objected to what he termed the creation of two centres of power. He argued that Kenya should either adopt the parliamentary or presidential system, but not both.

“At face value, the draft appears popular. It has good clauses worth adoption but has issues that need to be looked at critically,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

And, speaking at Usao Secondary School in Mbita, Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ supported clipping of the powers of the presidency. The abuse of powers vested in the presidency was the reason Kenyans had been agitating for constitutional change, he argued.

The Catholic Church said it will make its position on the draft law public in the next two weeks.

John Cardinal Njue told a Peace and Reconciliation Mass at Molo that the draft required thorough scrutiny and appealed to the public to understand it to avoid the process being hijacked by politicians.

During the 2005 referendum, politicians took over the process from the public even before people could understand the Wako draft, he said.

Molo MP Joseph Kiuna and his Nakuru counterpart Lee Kinyanjui, speaking separately, asked politicians to stop declaring their positions to allow Kenyans to first debate the draft amongst themselves.

“As politicians, we are busy bickering without allowing the public time to read and understand the contents of this harmonised draft,” said Mr Kiuna.

Mr Kinyanjui urged President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga not to make their opinions known but instead allow Kenyans to discuss and make suggestions on the necessary amendments.

On its part, the National Civil Society Congress said it did not find that the draft curtails presidential powers.

“The presidency still retains substantial powers in public appointments,” said Mr Morris Odhiambo, the leader of the group.

Speaking in Trans Mara East district, Assistant minister Kabando wa Kabando criticised his fellow politicians for attacking the draft even before reading it.

Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella welcomed the devolution of power and resources saying it aims to empower and uplift the living standards of all Kenyans.

But, Kikuyu MP Lewis Nguyai said issues such as the Bill of rights and cross representation are not in the draft.

“Cross representation should be included so that we do not have one person representing 500,000 in parliament, while another one represents 50,000 people,” he said.

In Ndaragwa, Cooperatives Minister Joseph Nyaga said the Committee of Experts ought to recognise the existing 254 districts in the harmonised draft to avoid the document being rejected during the referendum.

At the Coast, Muslims for Human Rights executive director Hussein Khalid announced plans to convene more than 200 meetings in the province to sensitise the public on the draft constitution.

Mr Samuel Welimo of the Hope of Revival Mission in Butere said the provision for kadhi courts in the draft was discriminatory, as all religions ought to be allowed to have their own courts.

Reports by George Munene, Eric Wainaina, Dennis Odunga, Joy Wanja, James Kariuki, George Sayagie, Simon Siele, Peter Ng’etich, Henry Andanje, Edwin Nyarangi, Maurice K’aluoch and Philip Muyanga

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