President Uhuru Kenyatta has strongly supported a review of the Constitution as Opposition chief Raila Odinga on Sunday warned those standing in the way of reforms that they would be swept into political oblivion.
The President said Kenyans should make adjustments to the Constitution so that any weaknesses are not exploited by future leaders to oppress them.
“If there is anything wrong with the Constitution, or any other law, we need to sit down and see how best we can rectify it,” President Kenyatta said on Saturday during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM) Church in Karen, Nairobi.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was present at the event, is opposing the push to amend the Constitution as fronted by Mr Odinga, describing it as a selfish move to create more seats for perennial election losers.
An amendment to the law, possibly to expand the Executive, has been on the cards since the March 2018 ‘handshake’ between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
This was further strengthened when the two leaders formed a task force to drive the Building Bridges to a New Kenya Initiative by getting views from Kenyans on how to fix the political problems that have dogged the country since independence.
The task force has completed its work and is currently writing its report to be submitted to the two leaders before October.
Political observers strongly believe it will recommend amendments to the Constitution.
The President’s comments were triggered by CITAM’s Presiding Bishop David Oginde, who urged the President to find alternative ways of dealing with ethnicity, corruption and other vices that ail the country, without necessarily changing the Constitution.
Dr Oginde further advised the President against pushing for the plebiscite, arguing that a nation that puts God first should not struggle with fighting the aforementioned ills.
“Let me tell you your Excellency, with all due respect, the Constitution is not the answer; Christ is the answer,” he said amidst applause from the congregation.
In response, President Kenyatta defended the need for a reform, saying it would help the country todo away with bad laws while upholding good ones.
“You can’t just sit on your laurels and hope that manna will fall from heaven,” the President said. “If there are thorns in our Constitution, or even our laws, let’s remove them because not all leaders will do as they say.”
“Our only safeguard is a Constitution that stands and protects all the 45 million Kenyans. The only act of ingenuity that remains is for us to sit down and look at the laws and rectify them.”
On Sunday in Kibra, Nairobi, Mr Odinga declared that it was not a matter of if, but when, the BBI referendum would be held.
Mr Odinga spoke when he unveiled ODM hopefuls seeking to contest in the November 7 Kibra constituency by-election. The seat became vacant following the death of Ken Okoth on July 26.
Twenty-four individuals, including former MPs, have shown an interest. Mr Odinga told the Tangatanga team, an amorphous group of politicians allied to Mr Ruto, to realise that the public mood was for the BBI recommendations.
Mr Odinga, accompanied by his eldest daughter Rosemary Odinga, said the referendum could be held next year.
Once the report has been presented to the two leaders, Kenyans will be invited to present their views on the recommendations before crafting a referendum question to guide the process, he said.
“I have seen a storm, a sign that it will rain. This storm will carry the Tangatanga team to the ocean. The report has very good views from Kenyans and once it is out, we will publish it for Kenyans to give their views then go for a referendum,” Mr Odinga said at Kamukunji grounds.
Mr Ruto and his supporters, as well as Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot, are opposed to the BBI initiative.
Mr Aukot has come up with the ‘Punguza Mizigo’ campaign, a referendum push meant to scale down Kenya’s elected and nominated representatives.
The push, in the form of a draft Bill backed by over a million signatures, is currently at the 47 County Assemblies for consideration, a process that will take three months from July when it was submitted to them.
Mr Ruto has not publicly opposed or supported Dr Aukot’s proposal, but it has received the backing of his close allies.