Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi wants talks on a referendum deferred, saying Kenyans are already too burdened and are in their “most vulnerable situation”.
Mr Mudavadi, who has structured himself in the past as the biggest champion of constitutional change, said Kenyans should be given a break, and that the country should instead address more critical issues.
Wednesday’s was Mr Mudavadi’s most definite position on a subject that has attracted wide press coverage in the recent past, with Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga being the two leading protagonists on each side.
While Mr Ruto says a referendum is unnecessary and will lead to endless politicking, Mr Odinga argues that it is a critical aspect in the Building Bridges Initiative — the famous March 9 deal he made with President Uhuru Kenyatta — aimed at addressing Kenya’s past mistakes.
On his part, the ANC leader has in the past made himself the poster boy for the Bomas Draft — the Prof Yash Pal Ghai-led programme that gave Kenya one of the most torturous, meticulous processes that birthed a Constitution that he and Mr Odinga say was the most representative of Kenyans’ views.
The 2005 draft, which was later “mutilated” in Kilifi and subsequently shot down in a referendum the same year, had proposed the creation of a prime minister position, who would be the leader of the largest political party or coalition in the National Assembly, and would be appointed by the President from among MPs with the approval of Parliament.
The Premier was proposed to be the head of a Cabinet made up of a maximum 20, and a minimum 15, ministers, with an equal number of deputy ministers appointed by the President upon being nominated by the Prime Minister from among members of the National Assembly, and subject to approval of the Senate.
Mr Mudavadi Wednesday backed down from all these, saying Kenyans had bigger issues to discuss.
“We need to get our priorities right; let us sort out the economy, let us fight corruption, let us sort out the electoral commission then we can go into a referendum with more objectivity,” Mr Mudavadi said, adding that he supports calls for an inclusive dialogue.
Meanwhile, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka argues that a referendum is inevitable, but says the handshake should be demystified so that as many people as possible can contribute to discussions on constitutional change.
"The ‘winner takes all’ approach has brought us problems. Any opportunity for dialogue is important. I support such initiatives, including the Building Bridges Initiative," Mr Musyoka told Citizen TV on Tuesday.
Mr Musyoka revisited the January 30 mock swearing-in of Mr Odinga as the “people’s president”, saying he had opposed the idea from the start.
“The truth is, there are people who misadvised my brother Raila on January 30 because, in the international community, we were going to be seen as pariahs. It is terrible when I reflect about it, because I have always stood for honest politics,” Mr Musyoka said.
Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula skipped the mock ceremony.
Mr Wetang’ula Wednesday said Mr Odinga was economical with the truth when on Monday he said he had tried to call Mr Musyoka, whose phone he said was off, and Mr Mudavadi, just before he shook hands with the President.
“Raila, do not let your memory fail you. Try and recall what you told us at a Stony Athi meeting about your handshake and how you had kept it away from your Nasa partners,” Mr Wetang’ula said on Twitter.