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Kenya Constitution (Amendment)

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

40.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is proposed to amend the provision in the Kenya (Constitution) Order in Council which disqualifies persons who have undergone a sentence of two years or more imprisonment from standing as candidates for election to the Kenya Legislature.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should now like to answer Question No. 40.

Yes, Sir. I have discussed the matter very fully with the Governor and I have reached the conclusion that the Constitution should be amended so as to remove the provision to which my hon. Friend refers. Accordingly, an appropriate amendment to the Order in Council will be submitted to Her Majesty in Council in the near future.

I am satisfied that responsible opinion generally in Kenya, and, in particular, the main political parties, accept that, in the developing situation in Kenya, the Constitution should give all people, subject only to the normal disabilities, the chance of pursuing their political aims by legitimate political means.

I believe that this step will help us to secure our main objective in Kenya, which is to achieve constitutional advance on lines generally acceptable to the people of the country.

Bearing in mind the inevitability of this statement, following Mr. Kenyatta's release in August, can my right hon. Friend say whether, as has been suggested in some quarters, any secret understanding was reached on this or any other matter with Mr. Kenyatta and the K.A.N.A. delegation which visited this country a couple of weeks ago?

No, Sir. No secret understanding of any kind whatever was reached. To reaffirm that, I should add that I am acting on the recommendation of the Governor and of the Government of Kenya.

Why has it taken the right hon. Gentleman so long to reach this decision, which has been pressed upon him by a number of hon. Members on this side of the House? Can we take it that he has the full support of his party in permitting Mr. Kenyatta to stand for election and, if the electors of Kenya so decide, to become Chief Minister?

This decision has not been an easy one to reach, and that is why it has taken time. It would be foolish, in a matter of this kind, to rush decisions. The decision has now been taken and I hope that the House will support me in trying to encourage further peaceful advance in Kenya.

Does this mean that the K.A.D.U. members of the Government of Kenya support this action? If that is so, does not my right hon. Friend think that they deserve a pat on the back for supporting the return of their chief political opponent at the moment?

Yes, Sir. This decision certainly received the support of K.A.D.U. members of the Kenya Government.