In Summary
  • Through a Kanu initiative, a select committee was formed by the Eighth Parliament to review the Constitution, but other stakeholders felt that the process should be people-driven.
  • This culminated in the formation of the People’s Commission of Kenya (PCK), commonly known as the Ufungamano Initiative.
  • It was chaired by Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka.

The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 was preceded by almost two decades of political drama and intrigues.

But the climax was in 2001, when Prof Yash Pal Ghai, the globally respected constitutional lawyer, was picked to lead the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) that was created as a result of a merger between the government-led review team and that of religious and civil society known as the Ufungamano Initiative.

Prof Ghai, then a public law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong and a consultant in the Afghanistan constitutional review process, was head-hunted by Attorney-General Amos Wako on the orders of President Daniel arap Moi.

Moi had been under pressure to institute a full constitutional review, which he had promised, when the opposition compromised on minimal reforms under the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) ahead of the 1997 elections. 

Through a Kanu initiative, a select committee was formed by the Eighth Parliament to review the Constitution, but other stakeholders felt that the process should be people-driven.

The problem was that the political parties represented in Parliament could not agree on how to share seats on the commission, given that the National Development Party was seen as an extension of Kanu, courtesy of their cooperation agreement.

With Moi dilly-dallying, a group of religious leaders met at Ufungamano House in Nairobi in November 1999 and invited 54 groups from civil society that were listed as stakeholders in the review process.

This culminated in the formation of the People’s Commission of Kenya (PCK), commonly known as the Ufungamano Initiative. It was chaired by Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka.

PANIC

The Moi government panicked upon seeing that constitutional reforms had taken off with the support of the majority of the public, but without its input, yet it was keen to influence the process.

To Moi’s surprise, however, Prof Ghai, whom he had recruited merely to scuttle the Ufungamano group, turned out to be a thorn in the flesh as he came to embrace the aspirations of the majority of Kenyans for constitutional reforms.

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