How MPs watered down constitutional reforms

Retired president Mwai Kibaki greets catholic faithfuls after attending mass at St Consolata cathedral in Nyeri, February 18, 2018. [Photo/ Mose Sammy/ Standard ]

A proposal to have a 13-member Senate consisting of eminent Kenyans including retired presidents was dropped in an amended draft constitution in 2010.

Had the proposal sailed through, retired presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki would be sitting in the Senate.

This emerged yesterday as the intrigues of the making of the Kenya Constitution 2010 were laid bare, including how legislators, driven by political interests, changed the document initially tabled by a team of experts.

“We had set our eyes on about 13 Kenyans who would sit in the Senate. We had agreed on retired President Moi, Kibaki, upon completion of his term, Moody Awori (former vice president) and the late William ole Ntimama," said Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, who was a key player in the Naivasha talks on the current constitution.

Hybrid system

Nzamba Kitonga, chairman of the defunct Committee on Experts (CoE), revealed how legislators in the 10th Parliament altered the harmonised document the committee had crafted, including discarding a hybrid governance system in favour of a purely presidential system.

Mr Kitonga said the now-contentious presidential system of government was the creation of the 27 members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Review of the Constitution, which revised the original work and came up with the final Naivasha draft, that was later subjected to a referendum.

Tiaty MP William Kamket has introduced a bill that could see the introduction of a parliamentary system.

Kitonga revealed that his team had suggested a hybrid system of government, borrowing from both presidential and parliamentary systems, but their proposal was shot down by MPs.

“We were ambushed by the committee that went to refine the document in Naivasha. They are the people who came up with a purely presidential system, which had never been discussed,” he said.

He also revealed that the parliamentary committee, chaired by then Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed, also watered down the powers of the Senate.

Powerful Senate

According to Kitonga, his team had created a powerful Senate that would supervise the National Assembly.

“The Senate was to be the Upper House and would supervise the National Assembly, but all this was reduced in Naivasha and they created a very weak House,” revealed Kitonga.

His sentiments were echoed by Mr Kioni, who revealed that at one time, the MPs had scrapped Senate from the Constitution before reinstating it after Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) team threatened to campaign against the document.

Kioni said despite the bad political blood that existed at the time, MPs negotiated on all the clauses before coming up with the document that was later subjected to a referendum.

Kitonga said it was now up to the legislators to consider if, eight years after the promulgation of the Constitution, it needed amending.