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Support referendum or risk isolation, Rift MPs tell Ruto

Saturday October 6 2018

William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto arrives at Christ is the Answer Ministries Valley Road, Nairobi, for the official opening of the Global Leadership Summit on October 4, 2018. He does not want a referendum. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The renewed push for a referendum took a new twist Friday when a section of Rift Valley MPs urged Deputy President William Ruto to join the pro-referendum bandwagon or risk being isolated.

Their warning to Mr Ruto, who is seen as the face of the anti-referendum campaign, came as the National Council of Churches of Kenya supported the push for a referendum to overhaul the structure of government.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, who was joined by his Kipkelion West counterpart Hilary Koskei, warned:

“Mr Ruto has to be careful in the way he handles this issue of referendum as it can isolate him from the rest of the people in government and scuttle his efforts to unite the country and solidify his political base ahead of the 2022 elections.”


Mr Kutuny and Mr Koskei claimed Mr Odinga is using the referendum to redeem himself politically and seek relevance ahead of the 2022 elections.


“It is foolhardy to imagine that you can wake up one morning and propose to reduce counties from 47 to 12, to scrap the position of woman representative and reduce the number of Members of County Assemblies and expect Kenyans to support it,” they said.

Mr Odinga has this week emerged as the foremost champion of the referendum push which is fast becoming a divisive debate in the country.

“Our constitution is very ripe for change. We must evaluate if devolution has served us well and the emerging bottlenecks,” Mr Odinga said when he campaigned in Migori.

Mr Ruto has on other hand opposed the calls, arguing that it is a scheme by Mr Odinga to get into government through the backdoor.


In fact, the call for referendum has sharply divided the ruling party with the emergence of factions that support either side.

The older generation of Jubilee MPs from central Kenya are firmly behind calls for the plebiscite with nominated MP Maina Kamanda on Friday reiterating his stance that a referendum will be held “whether some people like it or not”.

It is believed that the younger generation of Jubilee MPs support Mr Ruto but have been forced into silence, owing to lack of clarity on the President Uhuru Kenyatta's position.

On Friday, Tiaty MP William Kamket, who was among the first to draft a constitutional amendment that seeks to introduce a parliamentary system of government, said: “My draft was honest and had nothing to do with 2022 politics … The truth is that the constitution requires amendments and Kenya needs a parliamentary system.”


On Friday, Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, a Ruto ally, said: “This debate is healthy but we must be careful on what we seek to achieve.”

Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara supported calls for changes to the Constitution.

However, Laikipia North MP Sarah Lekorere and Laikipia woman representative Catherine Waruguru are against the push for a referendum.

“I don’t support it because this Constitution has not yet been implemented fully,” Ms Lekorere said.

Reports by Ibrahim Oruko, Macharia Mwangi, George Sayagie, Steve Njuguna, John Njoroge, Vitalis Kimutai, Waikwa Maina, Joseph Openda.