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Draft Constitution Has Kenyan Support

  • Peter Clottey

A Kenyan legislator says several polls show a majority of Kenyans support the draft constitution ahead of a meeting between the “parliamentary political parties,” the president and the prime minister scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Doni Khalwale, chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee said the aim of the meeting is to decide on the needed strategy to use in the upcoming referendum on the constitution.

“When we meet later on this morning, we want to take a collective decision on how to approach the campaign for the forthcoming referendum. Of course, we have the ‘no’ and the ‘yes’ side. However, the majorities are overwhelmingly in yes,” he said.

Both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the meeting Tuesday to decide on a strategy to encourage Kenyans to support the draft constitution.

The two former opponents formed a “grand coalition” that led to the unity government after the 2007 post-election violence that led to the loss of lives and properties.

A Commission of Experts sought the views of Kenyans during the drafting of the constitution.

Kenya’s Attorney General, Amos Wako, published the newly drafted constitution last week. And, Kenyans are scheduled to vote on it in a referendum in August.

Legislator Khalwale said Kenyans were widely consulted before the constitution was drafted.

“The consultations that have been going on, unlike in many countries in the whole world that have attempted to do the constitution, the consultations in Kenya have taken a period of around 20 years and, in the process, many people have forgotten what their contribution was,” Khalwale said.

Most members of the coalition government, including President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, are reportedly supporting the draft constitution.

But, a handful of cabinet ministers including William Ruto, minister for Higher Education, Naomi Shabaan, Special Programs and Samuel Poghisio, Communications and Information have joined forces with some churches to strongly oppose the draft constitution.

Khalwale said those against the draft constitution are misinformed.

“The people who are coming out with the ‘no,’ they have serious misinformation. So, if we do not counter them, the people will unsuspectingly think that the naysayers are the ones who are carrying the truth,” Khalwale said.

Critics seized upon the reported mixed reactions to the draft constitution saying the elitists will be engaging in strategies Tuesday with the aim of shoving the constitution down the throats of Kenyans - - a charge supporters of the government, including Khalwale, deny.

“We have done quite a number of different polls and, in all those opinion polls, the public which participates at random, the public which is not part of the so-called elite, they are returning an overwhelming ‘yes’ for the draft. You cannot say this morning’s meeting is for the elite because the membership of political parties is not limited to MP’s (members of parliament) alone,” Khalwale said.

Kenyans are expected to undergo a 30-day period of civic education before official campaigns ahead of the referendum.

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