Friday, March 30, 2007


The current discourse on the political scene in kenya is all about the alignments of the various political forces in kenya as to the issue of the making of minimum or if you will necessary constitutional reforms to the constitution.The clamour for these reforms is informed by the need to even out the playing field in light of the 2007 General Elections.While it may seem to be a novel idea,the call for such reforms has attended Kenya's multiparty politics from even the monumenantal years of the early 1990s.Inititiaves such as the one being currently undertaken have been taken numerous times since 1990.One can recall the 1991 repeal of Section 2A of the Constitution which ushered Kenya back to the turbulent multiparty politics theoretically putting to an end the single party hegemony of KANU.Another initiative was the 1997 IPPG reforms that were ideally meant to create a conducive environment for the various parties to equally participate in the 1997 elections.The IPPG talks saw a resultant pact that repealed and amended certain laws that were deemed to be barriers to the consolidation of democracy in the country.Such laws included the Protection of Public Security Act,the Chiefs' Authority Act,the Public Collections Act and the Special District(Adminstration) Act that applied to the North-eastern province and some parts of Coast province.In addition,an agreement was reached such that appointment of the ECK commisioners would be done by all parliamntary parties on the basis of parliamentary strength.

So,the question to be asked is whether Kenya as a country needs to undertake further reforms or a comprehensive reform of the constitutional system is still possible within the time left before elctions are held.To answer this question one needs to understand the kind of reforms that are being pushed for by the various parties involved.To begin,the major change sought to be made to the constitution is that of requiring that the winning presidential candidate garners a 50% plus majority of the total votes cast as opposed to the current scenario whereby he/she has to win 25% of total votes cast in at least 5 out of the 8 provinces in Kenya.This change is meant to annul the mischief that attended the enactment of this section whereby President Moi had sought to use it to lock out the opposition parties which did not have the massive network that KANU had created over time nationally.Thus it seeks to have a President who has a national appeal as opposed to a regional or tribal one.It also seeks to ensure that every vote cast counts in determining the winning candidate.Thus using the foregoing rationale it is justifiable to instutute such a change.

The other amendments sought to be made are aimed at levelling the playing field and strengethening the electoral and democratic processes.These include making ECK independent of the Executive by having a fixed number of commissioners with longer tenure at office and having the Commission empowered to control its finaces and calendar of activities inluding determining the electoral calendar.Other changes include securing independence of the legislature by having it control its own calendar.In addition,gender parity in parliament is sought to be achieved by increasing the number of nominated MPs from 12 to 36 with 24 being women as well as increasing Judicial independence.

From the foregoing it becomes clear that there is indeed need to undertake some reform to the legal regime in the country before elctions are held.However,given that the time period is rather restrictive,it is not feasible to undertake comprehensive reforms which would require the holding of a national referendum to ratify them.This thus removes the comprehensive review option.Therefore,it suffices to say that the way to go is to have minimum reforms undertaken in a sober and reflective mood to ensure that the forthcoming elections serve to push the country towards the longdue consolidation of its democracy.This is the cry of all right-thinking kenyans which hopefully the political class will heed to,for once.

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