Allies of Deputy President William Ruto Saturday stepped up their opposition to a referendum as the issue dominated events attended by the DP and his lieutenants across the country.
The clear and seemingly coordinated rejection of efforts by the Thirdway Alliance signalled a new political front that follows the script opposing an anticipated referendum push by the Building Bridges Initiative.
The referendum talk was at the centre of a church fundraiser presided over by Dr Ruto in Machakos County, where the legislators who accompanied him said it would only sow more divisions rather than heal the country.
Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka, who hosted the DP at Manza Primary School during a harambee for the completion of Katisaa AIC building, took a swipe at Punguza Mizigo referendum initiative by Thirdway Alliance Party.
“Who will invest in a country that changes the Constitution after every five years just to suit someone’s interests?” he asked.
Kangundo MP Fabian Kyule termed the Punguza Mizigo initiative as a movement to cause confusion in the country, while his Kitui South counterpart Ms Racheal Nyamai said that they would support the referendum if it does not remove the position woman representative.
Although the DP steered clear of the issue during the fundraiser, he is on record saying that he would oppose any move to change the Constitution in order to expand the Executive.
In a speech he delivered at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, in London in February this year, Dr Ruto said he was opposed to the reintroduction of the position of Prime Minister as has been suggested by some MPs supporting ODM leader Raila Odinga.
A senior politician in the Ruto camp, who spoke in confidence, said they would continue with a consistent message to oppose the referendum in public rallies and ensure county assemblies, where the referendum Bill is supposed to be passed before being delivered to the national Parliament, would shoot it down.
In a separate function, over 40 women leaders allied to the DP hit out at pro-referendum leaders who are suggesting that the Woman Representative’s position be scrapped.
Under the auspices of ‘Inua Mama, Jenga Taifa’ caucus, the leaders who are allied to Dr Ruto regretted that Kenya was yet to fully operationalise the two-thirds gender rule in Parliament.
They spoke at Kaaga Synod on Friday when they met women groups supported by Nominated MP Halima Mucheke.
Led by Kandara MP Alice Wahome, they took issue with the Punguza Mizigo group and the Building Bridges Initiative — which was established by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March last year after the “handshake” — saying they did not consider women in their envisaged proposals.
The leaders, drawn mainly from Jubilee Party, said they would only support a presidential candidate who supports women in leadership.
“We want that the government that we form in 2022 must have enough room for women, youth and men. It will not be business as usual,” she said.
Her remarks were echoed by Tharaka Nithi Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha Nyaga, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, and Nyandarua Woman Representative Faith Gitau.
“I want to criticise men who see women as a burden. Affirmative action is an equaliser and there is need to empower women,” said Ms Jumwa.
Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei urged men to reject any proposals to undermine the two-thirds gender rule, saying men could at one time find themselves underrepresented and benefit from it.
The leaders also drummed up support for Dr Ruto to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 when his term ends.
Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara, Ms Mucheke, Ms Nkatha and other leaders said Jubilee Party had a pact that promised that Mr Ruto would automatically take over from Mr Kenyatta.
Meanwhile, the Methodist Church in Kenya has welcomed the push for a referendum but warned against the use of the constitutional changes to serve personal interests.
Methodist Church in East Africa Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura said the referendum should instead introduce changes to fight vices such as corruption and spur economic growth.
Reports by Charles Wanyoro, David Muchui, Stephen Muthini and Lilian Mutavi.