Talks to review Kenya constitution likely to begin

Saturday October 28 2017

Kepsa Lee Karuri

A multisectoral forum co-chaired Lee Karuri (right), a Nairobi-based businessman, is expected to convene another meeting after the election is concluded. PHOTO | NMG 

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Kenya could begin another round of constitutional reforms once its election calendar comes to an end on October 31, to address political and legal challenges that the country finds itself in in every election year.

Working under the aegis of a multisectoral forum — trade unions, civil society, religious leaders and business community — agreed that the country needs political and legal reforms to ensure that it remains stable and future elections take place in an improved political environment.

Although the forum’s last-ditch efforts to strike a deal before the October 26 fresh presidential election failed and it agreed to disengage for a while, the meeting’s co-chair Lee Karuri, a Nairobi-based businessman, is expected to convene another meeting after the election is concluded.

Religious leaders and the business community pushed for a post-October 26 date for talks while trade unions and civil societies wanted the election to be postponed to allow for reforms.

The forum, which was formed to explore appropriate political and legal roadmaps that could help the country deal with the current crisis, occasioned by a repeat presidential election, is considering several options, that includes a national dialogue conference.

Borrowing from the Ufangamano Initiative, which set the stage for piecemeal reforms that ensured the 2002 general election was conducted by an electoral commission that had been constituted with the participation of political parties, the multisectoral forum is looking at short and long term interventions to the current crisis.

System of government

At a meeting that took place at Muthaiga Country Club in Nairobi, on October 21, representatives from trade unions, religious leaders, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the media, resolved that the forum will reconvene immediately after the election to begin dialogue, which could result in calls for reforms.

According to National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga, who withdrew from the fresh presidential election, only electoral reforms can guarantee Kenyans free and fair elections to avoid electoral fraud that occur in the country every five years.

Mr Odinga has already tabled a raft of demands dubbed irreducible minimums that if addressed, he said will ensure free and fair elections.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on the other hand has stated that he was ready for dialogue but only after the presidential election of October 26 was concluded.

The forum’s talks began with presentations from experts, among them constitutional lawyer Maina Wachira who presented possible short term and long term solutions to the country’s political problems, which he noted can be addressed by a review of the Constitution to change the system of government.

According to Mr Maina, countries that practice parliamentary system of government enjoy stability compared with Kenya’s presidential system.

To kick-off the call for reforms, the forum had proposed a national dialogue conference, where political and legal challenges the country faces after every general election will be discussed, which could pave the way for a constitutional review process if the proposal is adopted.

A team of experts will be contacted to prepare political and legal roadmaps on how the forum will push the reform agenda.