Readers of this blog know that we have been following the Kenya constitution-making process with a close eye. This coming week, debate is to begin in the parliament over the revised draft produced by the Committee of Experts. That draft has been considered by the Parliamentary Select Committee for the past couple weeks.
The signs are somewhat ominous. Prime Minister Odinga’s party seems to favor the current draft, while President Kibaki has focused on parliamentary revisions. Revision will take a 2/3 majority, so consensus is required. Some MPs proposed a retreat to work out a consensus, but that was not accepted and so debate will occur on the floor of the Assembly.
The crucial choice to move toward a presidential system as opposed to a semi-presidential one seems to be holding. But other issues identified by the PSC for proposed revisions include provisions regarding the legislature, devolution, the judiciary and transition. Devolution in particular is an important and charged issue for Kenya’s future.
Another issue that has reared its head is abortion. The draft is unusually restrictive of abortion, stating not only that life begins at conception but that abortion is prohibited, without even an exception for the life of the mother. Some MPs are apparently considering amending this, which will no doubt lead to conflict. Can you imagine what would happen if we in the US had to debate that issue and the whole constitution hinged on it? Stay tuned…