Kenya To Cut President Powers
Kenya’s president faces a huge reduction in his powers, under a newly published draft constitution. The plans would put the prime minister in charge of day-to-day government business, while the president would be nominal head of the government.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki have a history of bitter rivalry. Neither one has said whether they would back the plans. Kenyans could vote in a referendum on the constitution by next March.
After the draft was published, a 30-day public consultation begins, to be followed by high-level discussions and a vote in the national assembly before the referendum.
The BBC’s Will Ross in Nairobi says the draft constitution is an attempt to end the “big man” syndrome, where the winner of an election is all-powerful and virtually impossible to remove. One of the members of the committee who drew up the draft constitution said the days of the “imperial president” were over.
Kenya has suffered from horrendous bouts of political violence in recent years. After the 2007 election, supporters of Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga fought in bloody riots which left 1,300 people dead and 300,000 homeless.
The riots came to an end when the two men agreed to share power but the agreement has been shaky. As part of the deal they signed, they agreed to come up with a new constitution. The last attempt to frame a constitution failed in 2005 when Mr Odinga led a successful campaign to reject it in a referendum.
Mr Kibaki had been in favour of the proposals. Mr Kibaki, who is due to step down in 2012, has yet to respond to the new plans. Mr Odinga says he will not give his opinion because he wants to allow the Kenyan people a free discussion of the draft.
Also proposed is a plan to decentralise power from Nairobi to the regions of Kenya. Our correspondent says some Kenyans will see this as the national cake being spread further across the country and a chance of a getting a slice of that cake may improve.
However, he says some warn that there is a danger of corruption simply spreading to mini fiefdoms as has happened in the past. The proposed new constitution retains the Khadis courts – which under Muslim law deal with marriage, divorce and inheritance issues provided all parties are Muslim.
Our reporter says this has the potential to cause controversy as some Christian church leaders strongly oppose the inclusion of the Khadis courts in the constitution. Kenyans generally have a very dim view of their very well-paid political leaders, our reporter says.
While they now have a month to debate the proposals and feed their opinions in, the success or failure of the new constitution depends on the politicians agreeing to move the country forward, even if it means clipping their own wings, he says.