KENYA: July 2009
HLI-KENYA INVOLVEMENT IN THE SESSIONS OF THE COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS
The people of Kenya have been involved in a process of establishing a new constitutional dispensation since 1992 but more activity has taken place in the last seven years. While the current constitution in favour of life, some of the provisions of the Penal Code Act deny personality to an unborn. Pro lifers led by Pro -Life Kenya (HLI) then and now HLI-Kenya has always made their voices heard at all these forums.
The political turmoil that Kenya went through at the end of 2007 and early 2008 confirmed the need finalize the constitutional review process. The committee of experts however chose to stick to the political and administrative issues as the contentious ones. Newspaper adverts were made to invite the public to voice their opinion on only three issues: The Executive and Legislature, Devolution of Powers, and Transitional clauses. This selection of contentious issues left out the concerns of all profilers and people of good will. In effect any one with concern on any other issue other those listed had no means of having his/her ideas included in the final draft, which the committee will produce.
THE HLI- KENYA CONCERN
HLI- KENYA was concerned that the most recent drafts (BOMAS 2004 and WAKO 2005) of the constitution were conflicting on the question of life. It was also perturbing that despite the said conflict the committee had not identified the question of life as contentious. Finally HLI-Kenya had received reliable intelligence that up to 4 of the committee members had pro choice credentials and that it was in the interest of the pro choice group to leave the provisions as vague as they are in the said drafts. The first step is to establish whether the issue is contentious and truly it is as shown below:
BOMAS DRAFT 2004
Provided in section 34 that:
(1) Every person has the right to life.
(2) The Life of a person begins at conception.
(3) Abortion shall not be permitted unless, in the opinion of a registered medical practitioner, the life of the mother is in danger.”
Provided in section 35 that:
(1) Every person has a right to life except as may be prescribe by an act of parliament.
(2) The Life of a person begins at conception.
(3) Abortion is not permitted except as may be provided for by an act of parliament.”
These two drafts are only a year apart as indicated earlier. It is therefore surprising that the committee of experts did not consider the question of life as contentious and thus worth soliciting views about.
To HLI-Kenya, it was clear that the Reproductive Health and Rights Bill of June 2008 was an attempt to make operational proviso to Section 34(3) of Bomas and the exceptions in Sections 35 (1) and (3) of the WAKO draft. The attempt by the commission to keep this issue out of the current debate had to be met with suspicion.
We had to act quickly as soon as we realized that the hearings were to take place across the country within one week from 20th to 25th July 2009. We set out to make sure that the committee hears the dsame message across the country. First that given the wordings of the recent drafts (above mentioned) the question of life is contentious in the constitutional review process. Secondly that exception should be made to neither right to life nor to the prohibition of abortion.
We were represented at thirteen out of the 18 places of public hearings. Our Pro-lifers were in Kakamega, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kitui, Machakos, Kisii, Thika, Taita, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kilifi, Meru, Mombasa and Maralal. This is a performance of 77% in mobilization in a period as short as three days.
We prepared a common document, which our representatives could hand in if they had no opportunities to speak. Our senior Pro-Lifers had the opportunity to speak in Kakamega, Kitui, Nyeri and Meru. Other places, we only handed in the memo. At some of the hearings, some of our presentations were provocative enough to excite some commissioners into saying things that expose their prochoice leanings. They kept throwing the “hard cases” at our representatives: -the raped 10 year old, the pregnant woman with a cancerous womb etc. Our Pro-lifers were able to rebut these arguments though it is depressing that some of the commissioners were speaking with conviction in respect to these hard cases.
Our position was quickly adopted by the Moslems and Evangelical Christians that we met at the hearings. We sent the information through some friendly pastors and the same message is passed on by Hon. Margaret Wanjiru on her television show every Monday night.
CONCLUSIONThe intelligence was received in time, the response was prompt and the result was awesome. We however have to keep talking so that the people of Kenya do not go to bed over this issue. We need to make it an unavoidable issue to the experts such that if the final draft does not speak the prolife language, people can consciously vote against it.