Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kenyans in Teleforum Resolve to Set up Citizens' Assembly for Constitutional Reforms

Mar 03, 2008 – Toronto, Canada--The Kenyan Citizens Assembly teleforum held on March 1st unanimously resolved to set up a Citizens Assembly in Kenya on April 19, 2008.

Forum participants emphasized that for the new constitution to be genuinely democratic, citizens have to be fully involved. “But as we know, the politicians are already saying they will bring in experts, and then parliament will decide”, said the International Coordinator of the Coalition for Constitutional Reforms, Tegi Obanda.

“Leaving it to the parliament to decide may later backfire as we know what our politicians are capable of” said “Ruth Mwangi of Atlanta, Georgia. “

I think we must make people very aware of what is going on, let the politicians know that we are watching their vote and their re-elections is hinged on their vote. If they go against their constituents they will have consequences.” Mwangi warned.

The process of forming the assembly includes online forums, leading to regional face-to-face meetings in USA, Canada, UK, Scandinavia and the rest of EU (March 15-30), then launching of CA in Kenya April 18-19, 2008). The Citizens Assembly will enable Kenyans to participate in the constitutional reform process irrespective of where they are—at home or abroad.

“I am for Citizen Assembly, it bridges geographical divide and can get us talking on issues even while we are worlds apart,” said the Facilitator of Bunge La Mwananchi (People's Parliament), George Nyongesa. “To protect our democracy we need to strengthen grass root institutions as well as the public institution so that they cannot be manipulated.” Nyongesa said.

“For Citizens Assembly to work, the support of the government and parliament will be crucial. Once the Citizens Assembly has been launched in Kenya in April, avenues for liaising with government and parliament will be streamlined,” said Tegi Obanda.

Tavia Nyongo of the Coalition of Kenyans and Allies for Democracy suggested “We need a truth and reconciliation commission as the next step. Razia Mohamedali, the Secretary of CCR-Kenya agreed, saying truth commission and constitutional reforms should go together in tandem.

The forum vowed to rise above party affiliation and other factors that divide Kenyans. “Party affiliations should be kept aside, what we're interested in is our country and it belongs to all of us even those who did not vote,” said Mary Muiruri of Washington DC. “Parties are not important, we need our country back first, get people into the nation i.e. restore nationhood, human dignity, and get a constitution.

We should really strive to arise above party affiliation differences. Our country will come out stronger,” said George Nyongesa. Tavia Nyongo offered to help coordinate face-to-face meeting in New York . Mary Muiruri will help in Washington DC, while Tegi Obanda will coordinate efforts in Canada. . George Nyongesa and Razia Mohamedali will help in coordinating the main launch in Nairobi . Ruth Mwangi said she could organize a forum in Atlanta, Georgia. “Depending on the outcome of our next meeting, a one-to-one meeting will be useful for people at this end. I could facilitate that by providing a venue-etc to get more people involved,” said Ruth Mwangi The next teleforum is scheduled for Saturday March 8, 2008 from 9.30am.

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