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Religious leaders now create their path for constitutional changes

By Moses Njagih | December 6th 2019 at 02:00:00 GMT +0300

National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) General Secretary Rev Canon Chris Kinyanjui (centre) addresses a press conference alongside Sheikh Abdalla Kamwana (Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims) (left) and Archbishop Martin Kivuva, during 2nd Religious Leaders Convocation in Nairobi. [David Njaaga/Standard]

Barely days after the release of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, religious leaders have come up with proposed constitutional amendments. These changes, they say, should be undertaken to address national reconciliation, inclusivity and good governance. 

As the political class squabbles over the BBI report, their religious counterparts under the Dialogue Reference Group (DRG) yesterday called for a non-divisive and participatory constitutional referendum. They want this driven through a national constitutional conference, but with Parliament playing a key role.

Key on the proposal of the religious leaders is the expansion of the Executive.

And as recommended by the BBI task force, the group wants creation of the position of prime minister and two deputies to work with the head of the Executive – the president and deputy president.

According to the proposal, executive powers would be shared among the five.

But in a departure from the BBI report, the DRG report released yesterday at Ufungamano House, proposes that the five be elected under one ticket through a popular vote.

The group, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa Martin Kivuva, argues that this “cooperative executive model” will deal with the concentration of executive powers at the presidency.

And as they will be elected under one ticket, it follows that the president will not have powers to sack any of them.

“The prime minister and the deputies shall be accountable to Parliament to answer questions of and account for government policy, programmes and strategies,” says the group in its National Dialogue Consensus Agreement.

DRG is a creation of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, a body that brings together religious leaders from all the faith organisations in the country.

The group proposes the convening of a National Constitutional Conference, where all proposed constitutional amendments would be harmonised. This seemingly so as to avoid a divisive debate of what happens to the agreement - as happened to BBI - once it is “submitted to the people and the Government of Kenya and the proposed Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, which they want established under an Act of Parliament.”

Release of the report at the historic Ufungamano House along State House Road yesterday was significant.

It was at this same building that religious leaders backed by civil society pushed their constitutional reforms agenda in the 1990s and early 2000, then under the Ufungamano Initiative.

Strong opposition

DRG also wants political opposition strengthened to offer oversight.

They propose that the presidential candidate who comes second be nominated to the position of leader of the official opposition. He would then sit in the National Assembly, while his running mate assumes a similar position in the Senate.

According to the agreement, it is the constitutional conference that will determine what constitutional amendments should be pushed through Parliament and which ones should be taken to a referendum “if need be”.

If a referendum will be needed, the group proposes that “the timing be discussed extensively in order for it not to be of conflict”.

The group wants elections to be staggered with those of county governments – governor, MCAs and senator - held in August. They want national elections for woman representatives, the 290 constituency MPs and the members of the Executive held in December.


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