Kenya: the rainbow shows its true colours; Changing the constitution and devolving his powers, were some of President Mwai Kibaki's campaign pledges, but if the March events at the Constitution Review Conference are anything to go by, this promise threatens to bring his entire house down, reports Janet Jere.

Author:Jere, Janet
Position:Feature
 
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As we went to press, it seemed most likely that after 12 months of deliberations, Kenya's Constitution Review process had finally been battered enough to reveal how divided the country's coalition government really is.

In one of the most acrimonious debates on 15 March, prominent delegates to the conference, billed Bomas III, voted unanimously to strip the president of his executive powers, backing instead, the creation of the post of prime minister as head of government.

What this means is that if the new Constitution is passed on schedule (June 2004) president Kibaki would then become a ceremonial President.

Dissenting members in the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), mainly from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which is led by Public Works Minister Raila Odinga, heavily back the creation of the post of prime minister. Odinga has been tipped as the most likely candidate for the post.

The result of the vote forced president Kibaki's supporters, led by Vice President Moody Awori, to walk out of the conference in protest. Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi later warned that the government could withdraw its support for the constitutional review process altogether.

Explaining the government walkout Awori said at a press conference:

"I want to assure Kenyans that the government is totally committed to supporting a people-driven constitutional review process, we support a new constitution ... it is the wish of the government that the new constitution should be a unifying factor and provide a sound framework for lasting peace, stability and economic and social development for all the people of Kenya."

He said the government and all other key players including leaders of all political parties in the Narc fully supported and actively participated in the Consensus Building Committee report.

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The Consensus Building Committee, chaired by Bishop Philip Sulumeti was mandated by the plenary of the conference to look at the chapters on the Executive and devolution of power. It recommended a strong president who is Head of State and Government, Head of the Cabinet, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and chairman of the National Security Council, but a non-executive and weaker prime minister. The proposals were rejected by 314 votes against 15 with the majority voting to transfer all executive powers to a prime minister.

"The committee sat for long hours and exhaustively discussed...

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