Fresh crisis as faiths group releases draft

By Biketi Kikechi
Published June 3rd 2005 in The East African Standard
The Ufungamano Initiative yesterday released a draft constitution parallel to the Bomas one.

The move by the faiths-led group heightened the review crisis, which has dogged the country since Narc ascended to power.

Releasing the draft at Ufungamano House in Nairobi, the leaders from different faiths said the document would be given to Members of Parliament and the public for consideration.

The Constitution review Act was recently amended and gives Parliament powers to amend some contentious sections, but which are not identified in the Act.

"Ufungamano fears that disagreements over what has come to be known as 'contentious issues' will once again condemn the process to failure unless the nation embraces dialogue," said National Council of Churches of Kenya, chairman, Rev Mutava Musyimi.

The members said the constitutional review, especially during the National Constitutional Conference at Bomas, had divided the country "immeasurably".

They also concurred with retired Presbyterian clergyman Rev Timothy Njoya and six others who have filed a case in the High Court over the process. The Njoya group has argued that the Bomas Draft cannot serve as a foundation of a united nation.

"A renegotiation of the proposed constitution, with the specific purpose of building a consensus, is the only way of healing the divisions," said Musyimi.

The leaders added that this was the only way that the legitimacy for the new constitution could be secured.

The Ufungamano draft proposes that all the executive authority should be vested on an elected President.

It has no provision for a Prime Minister, proposed by the Bomas delegates.

"This is necessitated by the fact that 'Wanjiku' wanted to elect leaders directly from the village to the Presidency," said NCCK chairman Rev Mutava Musyimi, during the launch of the draft at Ufungamano House.

By demanding to elect the President directly, said the faiths-led group, Kenyans did not want to delegate the hiring powers to anyone else, not even Parliament.

The Ufungamano members' conclusion, therefore, is that Kenyans are asking for a Presidential system of governance.

The country would not get an effective and stable government if there were two centres of power.

The vice-president would be directly elected on the same ticket with the president, says the draft.

To check against the excesses of the Presidency including abuse of power, the leaders recommended that certain critical decisions be subjected to parliamentary approval.

These include appointments to key public offices and security of tenure for those holding constitutional offices.

Other checks and balances include the establishment of commissions, a robust Bill of Rights, a free Press and a vibrant society.

"These should be enhanced by a strong Parliament that would not be subjected to Presidential control, and a powerful and independent Judiciary," says the draft.

The religious leaders say the Cabinet should comprise non-elected professionals appointed by the President and approved by Parliament.

Such a Cabinet would not be subject to the demands of political constituencies as is the current case.

On Parliament, the electoral system and constitutional offices, Ufungamano proposes a one-chamber House.

They argue that the two chambers proposed in the Bomas draft would not add value to governance, "other than extra costs, money which would service poverty reduction projects".

To ensure gender balance, not more than two thirds of members of elective bodies and holders of constitutional offices would be of the same gender.

On the electoral system, the draft proposes the Mixed Member Proportional Representation system, under which 210 members would be directly elected on constituency basis and 90 seats through party lists.

The leaders said the system would broaden participation and accountability by all political parties.

It would also force them to have a national outlook and reduce the current "winner-takes-it-all" competition.