President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were on Friday under pressure to reject a raft of amendments to key laws safeguarding democracy in the Constitution. Read (Fury as ‘selfish’ MPs chop up Constitution)
Demands by Cabinet ministers, lobby groups and the clergy came as it emerged that 83 MPs will not defend their seats because they cannot meet the academic requirements set in the Elections Act.
Parliament also changed the law to allow presidential aspirants to run for other elective positions and to be nominated if they lose.
Cabinet Ministers James Orengo, Mutula Kilonzo, Amos Kimunya, Dalmas Otieno, presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth and former Attorney General Charles Njonjo led Kenyans, including church leaders, in urging the President not to assent to the laws.
Civil society groups said they will march to Harambee House to petition the Head of State to reject the amendments which have proved unpopular with Kenyans.
Speaking from the UK, Mr Orengo said he will write to the President asking him to reject the amendments on grounds that they undermine the spirit of the Constitution.
“With these amendments, Parliament has rolled back the carpet of the new constitutional order,” he said.
“I can also tell you that the Prime Minister will definitely not support the amendments. I agree entirely that these are matters which should be challenged in court,” he added and criticised Attorney General Githu Muigai for initiating the amendments.
“I am very disappointed with the Attorney General who, as the custodian of the supreme law of the land, is charged with ensuring that the spirit of the Constitution is reflected in any amendments he introduces to the House,” he stated.
Mr Kilonzo termed the amendments as a deliberate effort by MPs to undermine governance standards created by Kenyans.
“If the president assents to them, the courts must strike them out,” he stated.
In Mombasa, Mr Otieno revealed that 83 MPs and 2,000 aspirants for other elective seats will be locked out of the elections due to lack of university degrees.
While supporting the new requirement the Public Service minister said this would add value to service provided to Kenyans at all levels of government.
“It is a pity that some MPs are not competent in their parliamentary committees because they lack some skills which are vital in leadership. Though the move will lock out many current MPs and aspirants, we have no otherwise but to support it,” said Mr Otieno.
He added: “We have been experiencing incompetence in some parliamentary teams because some committee members do not participate.
“I am telling my fellow politicians that Kenya needs competent people and they should know money does not matter,” he said.
Mr Njonjo said MPs pushing for a reversal of the requirement would have tainted the country’s reputation had they succeeded.
Parliamentary Bills, he said, are not written in vernacular but English because people do not want to have any doubts.
“If you do not have a degree in law, science and mathematics you cannot be precise in what you are saying, that’s why the Constitution insists to be a member of parliament you must have a degree,” he said.
Mr Kenneth warned MPs to guard against the temptation of changing the Constitution for selfish interests.
“I do not support the amendments. This Constitution is not for Parliament but for all Kenyans. We must therefore be extremely careful to ensure that the gains we made in 2010 are not eroded by a few selfish individuals,” he stated.
Civil Society groups led by the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) said they will march to Harambee House on Monday morning to deliver an advisory letter to the President on the unconstitutionality of the amendments being tabled in Parliament.
The group will also present a similar letter to the AG, chairperson Ruth Aura said.
Mumias Anglican bishop Beneah Salala warned that the church will mobilise Kenyans to push for the dissolution of Parliament.
“We are going to mobilize Kenyans to reject these attempts by MPs to mutilate the Constitution without any reference to the people of Kenya who have the sovereign right. History is repeating itself, the independence Constitution was mutilated by the executive and today, the legislature is mutilating the new Constitution against the will of Kenyans,” he said.
Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir asked Kenyans to resist any attempts to mutilate the Constitution.
“Parliament has no right to change the Constitution without any reference to the people of Kenya. The old constitution was mutilated by Parliament and they (MPs) want to take Kenyans down the same road. They should not be allowed to get away with it,” he stated.
The Institute of Social Accountability urged Kenyans not to elect any MP who supported the controversial amendments in Parliament.
“This is a betrayal of the people of Kenya. We are shocked that an MP of the calibre of Mutava Musyimi who championed the enactment of a new constitution for over a decade is the same one sponsoring an amendment to mutilate the same constitution. Kenyans should blacklist any MP who supported the amendments on the floor or by absenteeing themselves,” the institute’s national coordinator Wanjiru Gikonyo demanded.
Mr Paul Mwangi, the Prime Minister’s advisor on constitutional affairs, promised to consult his boss before making any statement on the matter.
Reports by Peter Leftie, Philip Muyanga and Anthony Kitimo