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ICJ Kenya rejects BBI

By Betty Njeru | January 14th 2021
ICJ Kenya during a consultative meeting. [Courtesy]

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Kenya has strongly opposed calls for a referendum at a time when Kenya is battling a pandemic, corruption and other ills.

“Kenya is grappling with many concerns ranging from corruption, mismanagement of public funds, socio-economic challenges, poor leadership, and negative ethnicity. With these lingering challenges, we remain concerned that the calls for a referendum should not be the priority for our country at this time,” ICJ said.

ICJ further rejected the recommendations in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) saying that they undermine the rule of law.

In a statement, the commission said it drew conclusions after an analysis on the consequences the proposals would have based on the socio-political and legal context.

“We reject the BBI proposals on constitutional amendments in totality and reiterate that the amendments are unnecessary…the issues identified can be cured by entrenching political will, instituting policy and legal reform,” it said.  

“Our considered view is that the proposed amendments take away the gains contained in the Constitution 2010 and undermine the rule of law.”

ICJ is also of the school of thought that the BBI process that should have been people-centric did not achieve its goal, and was instead characterised by mistrust and personal interests.

The commission fronted the proposals to introduce the Judiciary Ombudsman as a major bone of contention, saying that it undermines judicial independence.

They averred: “The proposals to address gender parity in political processes are ill-conceived, and the recommendations on devolution are not favorable or consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution 2010.”

They further noted that there was no guarantee that the proposed amendments in the BBI will address the underlying historical injustices, and that the only changes the 2010 Constitution requires is meaningful and deliberate implementation.

“ICJ concludes that the Constitution has neither been accorded adequate time to organically shape the legal, political, economic, and social landscape,” it said.

Their sentiments recap those of former Chief Justice David Maraga, who in December said that a President-appointed Ombudsperson will increase the number of executive appointments from four to five and thus entrench executive influence on Judiciary.

JSC recommended that the structure of the Ombudsperson as proposed in the BBI be abandoned.

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