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Kenya: Karua Rules out Reforms Talks

Kenya’s government has dismissed a proposed meeting between the opposition and President Mwai Kibaki over the opposition’s demand for minimum constitutional reforms before general elections later this year. The opposition also petitioned the president complaining they have little confidence in justice and constitutional affairs minister Martha Karua to oversee the minimum reforms they are demanding. But, Karua described the oppositions demand as seeking to score “cheap political points”.

Justice and constitutional minister Karua said the opposition’s demands are unrealistic.

“The government opened dialogue channels through the multi-sectoral forum beginning August last year. The consensus reached by the group, which consisted of all the oppositions, civil society and everybody else was for a law to be enacted to enhance the democratic environment. We never agreed on any constitutional reforms, except entrenching the review process in the constitution. This is a shifting of the goal post,” she said.

Karua said the government had told the opposition to table their grievances and explain their demand, but the opposition refused.

“We are saying if there is any minimum reform that is necessary, lay it on the table, explain yourself, show how it links to the general elections and therefore becomes necessary. I don’t think that is an unreasonable proposition from the government,” she noted.

Karua said her office is yet to receive any formal opposition complaints.

“Other than shouting in the streets, there has been no formal communication except they purported to have written to the president, and writing to the president is just a political gimmick. Why would the president have to sit down with everybody who so demands? He has ministries; he has arms that deal with particular issues,” Karua noted.

She said she doesn’t see the need for President Kibaki to discuss the opposition demand for minimal constitutional reforms.

“Why would the president have to sit with them when a negotiating forum and the multi-sectoral forum already set up by my ministry, and when substantially, the membership of that group is still meeting and looking forward to the enactment of the three bills, including the political parties bill, which they’ve proposed, and which are going to be enacted when parliament reopens,” she said.

Karua also scoffed at the opposition’s proposed constitutional reforms.

“The proposition is laughable. In other words they are saying scrap your government and deal with us one on one issues. Are those people who are ready to take over government? Is that how they would function? They seem to be longing for Moi (former President Arap Moi) days when he used to deal with each and every issue and therefore absolutely nothing moved, because there was no delegation,” she said.

Karua said Kenyans are the only people who could judge the work she has so far been doing.

“About my ability, surely. Is it my opponents who are going to access my ability? It is my appointer and Kenyans, and I think if because I have said to them no, don’t dictate; come to the negotiating table with an open mind. It’s for Kenyan’s and all reasonable people to decide who lacks not just the ability but capacity to speak on behalf of anyone,” she said.