We were treated very badly at historic event, says CoE team

Saturday August 28 2010

Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review chairman Nzamba Kitonga (centre) his vice-chair Atsango Chesoni (left) and commissioner Bobby Mukangi at a past press briefing. PHOTO / PETERSON GITHAIGA

Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review chairman Nzamba Kitonga (centre) his vice-chair Atsango Chesoni (left) and commissioner Bobby Mukangi at a past press briefing. PHOTO / PETERSON GITHAIGA 

By DAVE OPIYO [email protected]

As Kenyans celebrated Friday’s historic fete to usher in the new Constitution, there was not much to celebrate for the group that midwifed the process.

For members of the Committee of Experts (CoE), this should also have been the day when their hard work in helping Kenyans deliver the document that had eluded the country for at least two decades was recognised.

It was never to be. According to a source at the commission who did not wish to be named, their first shocker came at Uhuru Park – where a number of them did not get sitting space.

Due to the sheer number of guests invited to the event, protocol had a nightmare controlling the dignitaries who tried to access the main dais. At one point, calls had to be made for more seats to be brought in.

“We did not mind this because of the number of those invited to witness the event. It was OK, we understood,” said the source.

“Some of us were, therefore, forced to follow the proceedings standing right at the back of the dais.”

As the ceremony proceeded, they expected that they would at least get some recognition, at least a mention — however little — for the tough work they had done. It did not come.

Neither President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga nor Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka mentioned the experts in their speeches.

“We were in effect the forgotten heroes of the day,” said the source.

After the ceremony, just like Cabinet ministers, assistants, permanent secretaries, judges, among others, they were required to rush to State House to attend a State luncheon after which they would be sworn in afresh under the new law.

“We boarded our van which was clearly marked CoE and proceeded to State House from Uhuru Park. But, at the gate, the ping pong game began. We were tossed from gate A to B and back to A. We were told we could not get into the venue due to reasons they know best.”

“We almost gave up … we wanted to go away. Were it not for someone who intervened, we would not have gone in. Inside State House, we were disappointed further when we realised no seats had been reserved for us. It is like the government was not appreciative of the work we had done,” said another source who also declined to be named.

“We were taken to the bar where we took our lunch standing. We did not even stay there for long because State House staff wanted to use the facility. It appeared to us that we were being told indirectly to clear off the area. We were, indeed, treated very badly,” he added.

The official described their ill-treatment as a classic case of short memory. 

“They use our officials and after they have achieved what they want, they dump them. This is quite a big shame. We witnessed a lot of selfishness but I hope it was not deliberate.”

He said he was also quite disappointed that Kofi Annan, who mediated Kenya’s post-election dispute, was not given a chance to greet Kenyans.

Efforts to get an official comment from Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo and CoE chairman Nzamba Kitonga were unsuccessful.

They neither picked up our calls nor returned our text messages.