Saturday, August 7, 2010

WE ARE READY TO AMEND THE NEW CONSTITUTION - RAILA DECLARES


Relaxed and jovial, Mr Odinga used the period before the formal interview to talk candidly about the period leading up to the head operation that sidelined him from the campaign trail.

He described how he had earlier ignored what he thought was a minor bump on the head. He hit his head on a car door and later when headaches became persistent, he saw a doctor who initially diagnosed malaria.

When the malaria medication failed to halt the headaches, a second opinion suggested a sinus problem. Still the treatment did not work and he begun relying on a regular dose of panadol, an off-the counter pain-killer.

Finally the doctor, an Ear- Nose-and-Throat (ENT) specialist, ordered a scan, which revealed that there was no sinus problem, but a ‘shadow’ higher up in the head. That was when they called in a neurosurgeon who conducted a fresh series of tests that revealed acute subdural hematoma, bleeding around the brain that if left unattended can be very serious.

Immediate surgery was called for, with Mr Odinga recalling that the doctors expressed surprise he was still on his feet after the long period in which the problem was unattended. Blood clots had developed leading to pressure on the brain.

“It was like releasing the valve on a pressure cooker”, Mr Odinga recalls of the surgery that involves drilling hole in the skill to release the pressure, and another one to drain the fluid-build up.

He has since been going for a scan every week and says the doctors report excellent progress.

The interview itself focused on the post-referendum scenario: Excerpts

During the campaigns both you and the President committed yourselves to addressing the contentious issues raised by the ‘No’ team after the new Constitution won the day. Have you now given thought to the mechanism under which those issues can be revisited?

We will be discussing. But as you know we now have a new Constitution, and that Constitution outlines clearly how such issues can be raised and how it can be amended. We hope that the people who want amendments know that.

We agreed that we cooperate and that position has not changed. But as you know, when we went to parliament there were so many amendments proposed by MPs that nothing could move.

If you want to go down memory lane to 2005, there were just three contentious issues, the legislature, the executive and devolution.

Land was not an issue. Kadhi's court was not an issue. Abortion was not an issue. After we had agreed on the key things new contentious issues were raised. We are agreed to talks, but how can we be sure that new contentious issues will not be created? Nevertheless, we are willing to listen and resolve issues under the context of the new Constitution.

Whether contentious issues are new or old they are still issues that came to the fore. Have you thought through specifically which of those issues were not genuine, and those worth consideration and the best way they can be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides?

For instance Kadhi courts were a non issue. If you remove it the Muslims will be not be happy. There is really no compromise on the issue of the Kadhi courts, they have always been there under the Constitution and never hurt anybody. In any way, compromise on the issue had been reached in 2005 at Bomas of Kenya with the churches, with the very same church leaders who raised objections later.

Abortion?

You know this is an issue that did not come from the Committee of Experts. Abortion was introduced in Naivasha by the Church leaders.

They introduced it because they wanted it stated that life begins at conception and that abortion in not permitted, period. But then medical practitioners pointed out that if it was left that way, as professionals they would have a problem. They risked being charged with murder if in an emergency they terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother.

That’s why other qualification had to be introduced, allowing the procedure if the life or health of the mother was in danger. Then there is also the Penal Code, and that is what informed the Committee of Experts decision to add the proviso 'permitted by any other law'.

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