Kenyans are debating a new draft constitution presented to the public on 17 November. They have until 17 December to put their views to the committee of experts responsible for preparing the draft, which will incorporate them into a new version for parliament. If all goes to plan the approved law will then be put to the popular vote in a referendum next year.

The new draft constitution reduces the powers of the president, who currently has almost total control over state affairs. In the new system the president would be elected directly but he or she would not be responsible for the day-to-day running of government. This would be the prerogative of the prime minister, who would not be elected directly but would be the leader of the political party or coalition with the largest representation in parliament.

The draft law also foresees the devolution of certain powers to the regional level, with the creation of regional assemblies and executive committees and the creation of a second house of parliament, or senate, to allow the regional powers to participate in the national legislative process.

Last but not least, the plans include capping the number of government ministers at 20 (against the current 40 or so, excluding dozens of assistant ministers) and limiting the mandate of the attorney general to one six-year term. The present attorney general, Amos Wako, has been in office since 1991.

Kenyans have been pushing for constitutional reform since the 1990s, although all earlier efforts have failed. Now the pressure is on as parties seek to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the disputed presidential elections in December 2007, which returned president Mwai Kibaki to power for a second term amid claims of fraud. The resulting political deadlock was eventually overcome by the creation of a government of national unity and the introduction of the position of prime minister for Raila Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, who claimed he had been robbed of power. Since then Kibaki and Odinga have had a difficult relationship, partly due to ambiguities over their respective powers.

Wanted in Africa
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