KENYA: Statement by the NCCK on Constitutional Reforms

LIMURU, November 11, 2009 (CISA)-Here is a statement from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) on the Constitutional Reforms.
Stabilising the Country for Comprehensive Reforms
1. Preamble
The Programme Committee of the National Council of Churches of Kenya has met here for the last two days to continue reflecting on the constitution review process and to give effect to the decisions of the Executive Committee published on October 14, 2009. In addition, we considered other matters of national concern. We were especially warned by the words of Isaiah 10: 1-2 which says:

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

This is a drive warning that all Kenyans should take a keen note of.

2. The Constitutional Review Process

At the outset, we wish to reiterate the commitment of the National Council of Churches of Kenya to a comprehensive review of the national constitution. We have worked towards the enactment of a new constitution for the last twenty years, and we shall not relent until Kenya attains a constitutional dispensation that is just and acceptable.

In this endeavour, we are keen to work with all stakeholders to build consensus on all contentious issues to pave way for the enactment of a new constitution which fulfils the dreams and aspirations of all Kenyans.

Towards this, we urge all Kenyans to lay aside personal. Ethnic, sectarian and political party and other vested interests and promote the development of a constitution favourable to all Kenyans. Let us all seek a constitution that is good for generations to come rather than merely trying to balance current expedient interests.

Best Case Scenario

In the best case scenario, the draft constitution prepared by the Committee of Experts will be broadly acceptable to Kenyans. This will be followed by the extensive and adequate civic education and further consensus building, leading to a referendum in which the draft constitution is ratified by the people of Kenya. As such, the country would have a new constitution in place within six months, putting us on the path of stability as we always pray in the National Anthem:

O God of all creation

Bless this land and nation

Justice be our shield and defender

May we well in unity, peace and liberty

Plenty be found within our borders

Worst Case Scenario

In a worst case scenario, the draft produced by the Committee of Experts would fail to get wide acceptance by Kenyans or be held hostage by competing political interests which undermine consensus building leading to its rejection at the referendum. This is quite scary because the nation would revert to the current constitution that has virtually destroyed the country. Noticeably, some political actors would rather the country maintained the current constitution. Such an eventuality would then result in aggravation of ethnic hatred and divisions, outbreak of violence in the build up to and around the 2012 elections, instability and anarchy. We were clearly warned about this by both Kriegler and Waki commissions.

NCCK takes cognizance of the fact that there are various hurdled facing the constitution review process that could give rise to this worst case scenario. These include:

i. The glaring lack of consensus among Kenyans on contentious issues

ii. The marked unwillingness by the Committee of Experts to sincerely consult different stakeholders and thus build authentic consensus

iii. The hard-line positions already being adopted by competing political interests

iv. The lack of input by other commissions which ought to inform the constitution review process but whose work will be incomplete by the conclusion of the review process.

We indeed regret to admit that the signals coming from national leaders and political actors invite doubts on their commitment to anew constitution. Their public pronouncements appear to have been calculated to provoke hard-line positions, leading to a rejection of the draft produced by the Committee of Experts. Against these odds and challenges, we lament that the nation could lose the opportunity and not get a new constitution soon.

Stabilising the Nation for Comprehensive Reforms

With this analysis in mind, and remembering the warnings by Kriegler and Waki that Kenya will self destruct if she goes to the next elections under the current constitution, we reiterate our call for constitutional amendments that would ensure the nation remains stable whether a new constitution is adopted or not. These stabilization reforms will serve as a fallback cushion for the nation in the event that the worst case scenario plays out. We emphasize that these measures are not an alternative to the comprehensive constitution review, but are to be undertaken as apart of the pursuit of the same.

The Bible does in Psalms 34:12 say: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursuit it.

Let us all join hands and work for the good of the nation and put in place measures to ensure peace prevails at all times.

3. The Draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009

On October 14, 2009, the Executive committee of the National Council of Churches of Kenya recommended that stabilisation reforms be undertaken. NCCK now offers this draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009 that details the specific stabilization reforms we are proposing.

In summary, the Draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2009 proposes that:

i. The date of election of the President be fixed to be on the first Tuesday of December in the fifth year each term of parliament

ii. The President is elected by fifth per cent plus one of the valid votes cast in an election

iii. That the person elected to be president receives a minimum of 25 per cent of the votes cast in five out of the eight provinces

iv. That all appointments made by the President be subjected to parliamentary approval

v. That the offices of Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecution be established as separate and independent offices with security of tenure

vi. That the term of office of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions be limited to five years renewable once

vii. That the parliamentary calendar be pre-defined by the constitution

viii. That the judiciary be extensively reformed to:

a. Guarantee for the independence of the judiciary

b. Define the terms of office of judges

c. Define the jurisdictions of the various courts

d. Establish the Supreme Courts

e. Reconstitute the judiciary Service Commission

f. Provide for the appointment of judges through a competitive process

g. Limit the service of the Chief justice to five years renewable once

h. Provide that appointment of judges be subjected to parliamentary approval

We share this Draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2009 with Kenyans and invite comments on the same. We are open to suggestions that would add value to these provisions as we finalize the bill for sponsorship in parliament

4. Conclusion

Kenya as a nation is just recovering from the debilitating Post Election Violence of 2007/08. It can be expected that people who are interested in the future of the nation will support measures that safeguard the country from a return to violence and ensure stability even as the stabilization reforms are undertaken to address the underlying causes of conflict. The stabilization reforms we have proposed here are to be undertaken through normal amendments to the constitution in parliament as provided for in our constitution. We urge the Members of parliament to view the enactment of these stabilization reforms as a normal national duty for which posterity will judge them with great admiration and favour.

May God bless Kenya now and always.

Signed on this 11th day of November 2009 at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru.

Moderator Geoffrey Songok

Chairman, Programme Committee

Rev Canon Peter Karanja,

General Secretary.