Thirdway Alliance’s Punguza Mizigo referendum drive continues to elicit mixed reactions with leaders across the political divide giving divergent opinions.
Whereas opposition legislators denounced the Ekuru Aukot initiative, those in the ruling Jubilee gave mixed signals on the Bill.
Speaking in Siaya, senate minority leader James Orengo, MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugenya) urged their supporters to ignore the Punguza Mizigo drive and instead focus on the one to be formulated by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen and nominated MP David Sankok, all allies of Deputy President William Ruto, threw their weight behind Dr Aukot’s Bill.
Mr Murkomen called on MCAs to embrace the initiative.
“MCAs have the greatest opportunity to stamp their authority by supporting Ekuru Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo initiative. They have been despised for far too long,” Mr Murkomen posted on his tweeter handle. He went on: “They should approve it overwhelmingly to remind all and sundry that devolution and its institutions matter.”
Mr Sankok noted that the number of MPs was too high hence the need to have them reduced as proposed in Dr Aukot’s Bill.
“There are too many Members of Parliament. It has pushed our wage bill to 52 per cent, thus negating development in the country,” said Mr Sankok.
He said the number of MPs should be reduced to tame the spiralling wage bill and that Kenyans were over-represented with new positions of woman representatives, senators, governors, deputy governors and county speakers.
Mr Orengo urged Kenyans to await the BBI report and embrace its recommendations.
“The referendum we know is that of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga that is to come after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report. The BBI will capture our desires on issues of governance and leadership,” the Siaya senator said. Dr Amollo faulted Dr Aukot’s proposal to merge constituencies and other electoral units.
“We cannot accept that. We won’t allow that bill to sail through. Our bill for change is yet to come,” Dr Amollo said. He went on: “Aukot has brought a bill that has been suspiciously endorsed by IEBC. The same IEBC that refused to endorse our Okoa Kenya Bill.” He called the Punguza Mizigo bill “opportunistic” while urging Kenyans to reject it.
“We must wait for the BBI report for a way forward in terms of what changes are to be made to the constitution,” said Mr Wandayi, adding: “The country does not have the resources to undertake multiple referendums. We can only do one before the next election and it will be the one informed by the BBI report.”
Dr Amollo said the Kenyans want a futuristic constitution and not one that is “retrogressive and opportunistic.” Speaking separately during a fund-raiser in aid of Bondo United Football team in Bondo town on Sunday, East African Legislative Assembly representative Oburu Oginga told off Dr Aukot on his referendum bid.
"Aukot should consult widely to come up with a negotiated referendum. His idea is dead on arrival,” he said.
"I ask MCAs to use every means possible to stop the referendum. We have boycotted elections before and we can also do this to the referendum by Aukot," he added.
His sentiments were echoed by MPs Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Samuel Atandi (Alego Usonga).
"People cannot just wake up and demand a referendum. We will amend the constitution through consultation," said Mr Atandi.
Mr Odhiambo reiterated the fact that Kenyans should wait for BBI report. Elsewhere, Bureti MP Japheth Mutai said Dr Aukot’s referendum push would not pass in parliament as it proposed a very complicated system which seeks to take representation away from the people instead of bringing it closer.
“If they are pushing to curb the wage bill by targeting to reduce MPs from 347 to 147, then they are holding the wrong end of the stick as the legislators pay represents only 1.5 per cent of the country’s budget,” said Mr Mutai.
Mr Mutai added: “What they should be asking is where the 98.5 per cent of the budget goes to.”
He said the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which gets an average of Sh100 million from the exchequer had revolutionised development at the grassroots with roads and schools being built. He said reduction of constituencies would negate these gains.
Chepalungu MP Gideon Koskei said Kenyans would not support the reduction of constituencies as they were development avenues at in the rural areas outside the county government structure.