Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Kenya bid to cut president powers

Mwai Kibaki, file image
President Mwai Kibaki is due to step down in 2012

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.

'Imperial president'

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.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga led the campaign against the last constitution

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.

What do you think about the new proposed constitution?

Thanks for your comments. You can read a selection below:

I believe we have lost focus once more. The peoples' revolution that began with saba saba was demanding less government, accountability and stripping excessive power from the executive. A constitution should be about the future not how best ODM and PNU should share power. We are now distributing the executive demonic powers between two protagonists while creating more government. Accountability through creation of strong institutions has now been abandoned. We think two individuals sharing power will be our solution. How quickly we forget our history in 1963. How will we pay for such a large government without being forever dependent on others?
Eric .K, USA

The reason why kenyans have come to believe that the presidency is a matter of life and death, is the misplaced notion that, you must have your own tribe as a president in order your community to have success. Unless and until we move past this, no form of Gov. will work magic.
joseph koech, Ohio USA

A new beginning has finally started in Kenya. Having a well decentralized governance, balancing of President's and Prime's powers and ending colonial laws is an African's pride Kenyans ought to take.
Philip Thon Aleu, Bor, Southern Sudan

Kenyans are tired of one man show. Devolved powers will ensure checks and balances and deal with government excesses. The PM with executive powers will run Kenya through parliament hence faster growth. The new government must also find a way to address passed historical injustices dating back to Kenyatta regime.

The best thing about the scheme introduced is that the head of government cannot be allowed to take an patronising attitude towards other organs of the state with impunity that has so characterised past the governments in Kenya. That a prime minister can be removed by a vote of no confidence of simple majority will ensure that there is always consultation before major government decisions.
Busalile Jack Mwimali, Birmingham, UK

This constitution is a dream in futility. Unless we change gov't by removing all these crop of politicians we shall be going round and round.
Tanu Barnaba, Nakuru, Kenya

with new constitution in place kenya will be the best country in the world. i see very peaceful and prosperous kenya in the next 20yrs GOD bless kenya and the rest of kenyas friends
charles wanyando, nairobi

Any draft constitution that addresses imperial presidency, corruption and emphasis accountability at all levels, is great.
Gilbert Nyandoto, Frisco, USA

It's about time the Kenyan Constitution was reviewed. What worked in the 60s is not what works now, we have a more educated, politically aware population despite the politicians often treating Kenyans like daft people. As long as the public vote will be respected, it's a good idea!!
Joan Nyakan, London UK

its a new beginning for kenya coz ,we are tired of power struggle we want efficiency distribution of power decentralization of government resources and unity in one government, we dont want two governments doing one job ,also the churches should stay out of politics muslims are our brothers denying them kadhis courts is not democratic the churches are busy fighting both government and muslims why, we should have laws that say religious institutions should not be involved in politics, in fact we dont need a president i live in one off the richest countries in the world and a prime minister is enough
shotoh kenneth malobah, trondheim, norway

This article is misleading as it suggests that Kibaki had been in favour of the new draft constitution and Odinga opposed. The truth is that Kibaki had been in favour of a heavily watered-down new draft which retained the bulk of the President's powers, which Odinga naturally opposed.
Parit, London, UK

This is a good draft. However, a piece of paper only can hardly bring about the desired change to the people and improve governance if there is no political will or Kenyan do not change their tribal mentality! It's not only the presidency that is a problem in Kenya...corruption and ethnicity pervades the whole Kenyan society. The draft constitution will hopefully lay the foundation for future emancipation of the Kenyan populace from bigotry and tribal mentality!
Nuur, London

I think there seems to be a new dawn but with it comes the risks such as devolved corruption.

The draft is very good because it shared executive power thus ensuring that the era of winner takes all is over. Devolution ensures that power and resources are decentralized. Good work.
Joseph Kiarie, Nairobi

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