After nearly two decades of waiting, Kenyans may finally receive a new constitution. Political leaders are calling for Kenya to support the proposed set of laws, but controversial amendments threaten its passage through referendum in the coming months.
Attorney General Amos Wako has received the draft constitution from the parliament and has 30 days to publish it.
Kenya moved one step closer to reform last week when parliament unanimously passed the proposed constitution and sent it to the attorney general for drafting.
While receiving the draft law from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Amos Wako promised Kenyans that he would not make any alterations to the document.
Wako, the government’s legal chief advisor also said that he would publish the draft before the end of the 30-day period provided by the review Act.
“I want to assure the people of Kenya that I will not amend, I will not affect any alteration to the draft,” said Wako.
The Constitution says the AG should publish the draft within 30 days of receiving it from Parliament but he said he would do that sooner than the set period.
PSC Chairman Mohammed Abdikadir urged the long-serving AG, who has been in office almost since the beginning of the quest for a new set of laws in 1990s, to move with speed so that the document can be published soon and the issues made clear.
Parliament last week passed the draft without any amendments after several attempts to introduce changes were frustrated by walkouts from MPs.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ruled out the possibility of amending the draft constitution saying that the process has reached a point of no return.
“The general wish of the majority of Kenyans is reflected in the Draft Constitution.
“No one should pretend that they are the only ones who can gauge and determine what the country needs,” Odinga told a news conference in Nairobi.
He said that once Parliament had passed the proposed Constitution, the next stage on the roadmap as set out by the Constitution of Kenya Review Act (2008) is clear:
With the draft moving towards a referendum, Kenya’s churches have emerged as the most significant threat to its passage.
Many religious groups in Kenya are opposed to a provision in the document that allows doctors to terminate a pregnancy if it threatens a mother’s life.
They are also opposed to articles that allow Kadhis courts to deliver judgment disputes over marriage, divorce and inheritance when both parties are Muslim and consent to bring the case before a Muslim judge.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has threatened to reject the constitution if the clauses are not removed. Muslim leaders in Kenya say they have stated a series of meeting and consultations to review the document before deciding to whether or not to back it.
The document is handed over to the AG for publication and “onward remittal to the people to ratify at a referendum.”
An attempt was made in 2005 to pass a new constitution, but the proposed draft was rejected in a countrywide referendum that polarized the nation. The 2005 referendum was seen as a direct cause of the ethnic violence that rocked the country after a disputed presidential election in December of 2007.
Between January and February 2008 1,300 people were killed and more than 300,000 were displaced from their homes as supporters of President Mwai Kibaki and his challenger, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, clashed amidst allegations of vote rigging.