Status of Reforms and Recounts in Kenya

We are now down to the last four days of debate in the Kenyan Parliament on a draft constitution.  The MPs appear fractured along the lines of competition for 2012 (party and factional splits) and on a regional/ethnic basis over issues of sub-national governance structures.  Changes to the current Committee of Experts draft require a 2/3 approval which appears to be a difficult hurdle.

If Parliament is unable to reach a broad consensus on changes, as appears likely, the referendum will go forward with the draft “as is”.  This will mean that there will be a lot of groups and interests that are not really happy with it, including some who have pledged or threatened opposition.  This will call everyone’s bluff at some level.

My guess would be that the current draft would be perceived by the voting public as enough of an improvement–and symbolically important enough in the post-2007 environment–that it will have broad support.  At the end of the day, I suspect it would be mostly people currently sitting in government in some form who would prefer the status quo.  It may well be that we will have behind the scenes efforts toward defeating the referendum from some politicians that offer a lukewarm endorsement in public.  Regardless, I suspect Kenyan voters will have a heightened resistance to being manipulated.

On other issues, Capital FM reports that a group of religious leader presented a memorandum to Kofi Annan during his present visit to Nairobi that seems to summarize well:

“We are concerned that political leaders, on whose shoulders the burden of implementing the reform agenda was placed, have shifted their focus to the 2012 general election,” the statement read.

They continued to say: “The situation is made complex by the fact that one principal is retiring while the other is firmly in the 2012 presidential race. This has made synergy remote since succession politics rather than national wellbeing is the overriding consideration in their minds.”

The leaders also told Mr Annan that very little effort had been made to address underlying issues classified as the root causes of the 2007/2008 post election violence.

They rated the government’s effort almost at zero in dealing with poverty, unemployment and regional inequalities which are some of the challenges that were identified as primary causes of the violence.

According to the leaders, the government was also not doing enough to realise land reforms despite the Cabinet passing a new land policy, “This is quite sad considering that land ownership and use was one of the causes of the post election violence.”

But they appreciated that a lot had been achieved in constitutional reforms though they expressed worries that political, ethnic and religious interests had almost overshadowed the national concerns.

They also called for consensus to ensure that the draft enjoys majority support when it will be subjected to a referendum.

On the issue of prosecutions from the post-election violence, the Justice Minister says the ICC is acting too slowly (like Kenyan courts) to approve Ocampo’s request to authorize a formal investigation. He says that a new effort to pass a “local tribunal” is first up following the consideration of the constitution. (Of course, the lack of finality/clarity about the potential for local prosecutions may be a primary issue restraining the ICC.)

Voter registration is underway. There are complaints about the slowness of issuance of national ID cards to potential new voters in some areas, but overall no surprising controversies that I am aware of yet.

Judicially supervised recounts continue in parliamentary challenges from the 2007 election. They are recounting the yellow ballots for parliamentary candidates. Hmm. Seems like it would be interesting to count the pink ballots for president, too. This is what the EU called for when the election results were disputed–but was dismissed as not possible by the US through Ambassador Ranneberger. Would have also been interesting for the Kreigler Commission to have done some sample recounts also. I’ll develop this further in subsequent posts . . . .

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