The Kenyan parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for a constitutional amendment in a historic exercise that will legalise the formation of a coalition government in line with a power-sharing deal signed last month between the government and opposition.
The power-sharing agreement mediated by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was necessitated by an election dispute that plunged the East African nation into chaos.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008 that creates positions of executive prime minister and two deputies went through the House unopposed, with 200 Members of Parliament, including President Mwai Kibaki, giving ascent to the bill.
The bill now awaits presidential signature before it becomes law.
President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who attended parliament to ensure the bill sailed through, urged the lawmakers to expedite constitutional reforms to prevent the country from slipping again into a political and ethnic crisis.
In his contribution in parliament on the crucial Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008, President Kibaki observed that the disputed 2007 presidential election had driven Kenya on the precipice of civil war, which he said should never happen again.
“God loves this country. The way we were headed a little while ago was terrible,” he said in reference to the post-election violence that claimed over 1,200 lives and displaced over a half a million Kenyans.
“I am quite sure that we have now found an answer (to the poll dispute) and that solution should be entrenched in the constitution of Kenya. And, let us above all, write a (new) constitution that we will follow,” he said.
President Kibaki, who goes down in history as the first sitting Kenyan president to participate in a parliamentary debate, appealed to the legislature to expedite the constitutional amendment that would trim an “imperial presidency”.
Excessive presidential powers are blamed for Kenya’s perennial complaints over land, public service appointments and distribution of national resources along ethnic lines.
Mr. Odinga, the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, who disputed President Kibaki’s re-election, called for a new constitutional dispensation that trims the president’s powers.
In his contribution that had echoes of his claim to the presidency, Odinga said, “Let us not continue to live in the past. Let us look at the past as a way of trying to prevent a recurrence of the past events. Let us not use it for muckraking . Let us not revenge as the Bible says,” live revenge to the Lord’.”
The Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008 provides for the formation of a coalition government in which power will be shared on a 50-50 basis between the ruling Party of National Unity and the ODM.
The bill also provides for the inclusion of the posts of executive prime minister and two deputy prime ministers in the cabinet, which hitherto consists of the president, vice president, ministers and assistant ministers.
The arrangement was a product of six weeks of hard bargaining and tradeoffs overseen by Mr. Annan after the presidential election ended in a deadlock. Panapress.