PNU and ODM call for a new constitution

Published on 31/05/2009

By Patrick Mathangani and Munene Kamau

Key politicians from President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s parties closed ranks to demand a new constitution and end to squabbling in the Grand Coalition Government. Thirty MPs from Party of National Unity and Orange Democratic Movement sought to mend the rift between the coalition partners by calling for consensus on constitutional review. They said a new constitution agreeable to all should be in place by the end of the year.

Given their previous political standpoints, they appeared to raise hope there could be consensus at the political arena on the route to the decade-old elusive search for a new constitution. PNU Chairman and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta led the Kibaki side of the coalition. Raila’s team consisted of more than 10 MPs, including Water Minister Charity Ngilu and her Tourism counterpart Najib Balala.

They spoke at a fund raising meeting for Runyenjes Women Trust Fund, organised by Tourism Assistant Minister Cecily Mbarire. The fundraising, held on Saturday, took place in Mbarire’s constituency, which is a PNU stronghold.

The show of unity contrasted with the picture of the country’s fractured politics and divided ruling coalition. The leaders appeared to confront the barrier that has always stood between Kenyans and a new constitutional order: Selfish political interests.

It was a political mosaic as diehard supporters of Kibaki and Raila spoke in one voice.

The MPs, who were drawn from all corners of the country, called for unity and an end to tribal and political differences.

Party differences

They also said differences in the coalition had slowed down development and said some top leaders had let down citizens by competing for power.

“Some politicians have been dividing the people,” said Uhuru, alluding to the differences between PNU and ODM.

“However, let’s strive for the unity of all people because too much politics will not take us anywhere,” he added.

He said political differences had slowed down development, as squabbling leaders had no time to work out development plans.

Saitoti, while supporting calls for a constitution that does not favour individuals or regions, said he was optimistic politician would support the review.

Commenting on the political and tribal mix at the meeting, he said: “I can now see signs MPs have now resolved to work together for Kenyans…”

He added Kenyans have waited for nearly 20 years for a new constitution, saying it was now time to keep the promise.

The minister led the MPs, through a show of hands, in showing their commitment to the review.

“Unity is strength. We all want a peaceful nation,” he said, and pledged he supported reforms in the Police Department.

Ngilu, while calling for reforms, told Kenyans to put their tribal differences aside and work as a united people.

He said leaders should not be elected on the basis of their tribal backgrounds, but on their qualities. “We can change Kenya, but this won’t be possible if you insist on voting for your own man or woman,” he said.

The Water Minister, who was a close ally of Mbarire before the two parted ways in the run-up to the 2007 General Election, asked leaders campaigning for 2012 to stop. “Many of us want (the presidency) but only one of us will get it,” she said.

Bungled elections

Balala said a new constitution would end most ills, including inequality and violence such as the fighting during and after the 2007 bungled elections.

“If we continue playing cat-and-mouse games, we’ll burn the country down,” said the Tourism Minister.

He asked residents of Mt Kenya region to support politicians from other areas when they seek the presidency. “We don’t want Kenya to always be led by people from the same community,” said Balala.

Trade Assistant Minister Omingo Magara said Kenyans should not allow politicians to take them for a ride in the law review.

“I will expose whoever tries to shift the goalposts,” he said.

Fisheries Minister Paul Otuoma said the new constitution should serve all Kenyans, and warned against new laws that would favour individuals. “We should make a constitution for everyone. Let there be no winners or losers,” he said.

Tharaka MP Mburi Muiru supported his sentiments.

MPs from the Rift Valley included Beatrice Kones (Bomet), Joyce Laboso (Sotik), and Peris Simam of Eldoret South.

Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth asked Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo to honour his promise to speed up the review.

The Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Njeru Githae said leaders should forget their differences and work a team to rewrite the constitution.

“We want leaders who will work with others … Kenya will never develop if we continue to be divided along tribal and party lines,” said Githae.

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