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Constitutional review bogged down by "political interests"

Major human rights groups in Kenya have warned that the ongoing constitutional review process is being undermined by powerful political interests to deny Kenyans the changes they wanted when they voted in the opposition National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) last year.

The National Constitutional Conference, which has been underway in Nairobi for the past two weeks, has been marked by sharp disagreements among the 629 delegates, who have so far failed to agree on the contents of the draft constitution due to ethnic, political and religious differences. Delegates have also been accused of demanding "unrealistic" increments in their allowances.

The delegates have been divided over issues such as the creation of a prime minister's post to dilute the powers of the president. Muslim and Christian delegates have also differed over proposals to retain Islamic Khadhi [family] courts in the constitution.

Four rights groups - the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the League of Kenyan Women Voters and the Institute of Education in Democracy - said a new constitution was needed to end massive corruption, mismanagement and poor human rights associated with the previous Kenya African National Union (KANU) regime.

"Although they have new leaders, this leadership has grown up with the values of a system that facilitates decay," the groups warned in a statement.

"If the review is scuttled, it will mean that Kenyans will labour under the same institutional, legal and philosophical framework of the past that will most likely bear the same result," the statement said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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