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Punguza Mizigo bill weighs heavily on Aukot shoulders

Monday October 7 2019

Punguza Mizigo

Thirdway Alliance Kenya leader Ekuru Aukot addresses the press at the party's headquarters in Lavington, Nairobi, on October 1, 2019. He said he will push on with the Punguza Mizigo initiative. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JUSTUS OCHIENG'
By JUSTUS OCHIENG'
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LUCAS BARASA
By LUCAS BARASA
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Opposition from mainstream parties, poor funding, radical proposals on representation and corruption have been linked to the near collapse of Thirdway Alliance Kenya party’s push for referendum.

Some State operatives said to have funded the Punguza Mizigo campaign are also said to have abandoned the project mid-way.

Interviews with various players close to Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot indicated that although the initiative did not enjoy support from major political players, it had the goodwill of a top Jubilee Party leader.

Dr Aukot on Sunday put on a brave face even as it is evident that his bill is about to hit the rocks.

Apart from blaming the “known political players” for threatening MCAs to reject his bill, he also launched a scathing attack at the Ugatuzi Initiative being fronted by Council of Governors.

The council has also made proposals in their push for constitutional changes. “They even copy pasted some of the PMB (Punguza Mizigo Bill) proposals,” said Dr Aukot.

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He could neither confirm nor deny claims that Deputy President William Ruto had been behind his initiative and only abandoned it due to threat of failure.

If that is anything to go by, then the DP’s statement last Sunday warning those championing for constitutional amendments to prepare to suffer the same fate as Punguza Mizigo amendment Bill, 2019, was a clear indication he had abandoned “his course.”

His sentiments attracted criticism from the Thirdway Alliance leader whose bill had been rejected by seven county assemblies and only approved by Mr Ruto’s home assembly of Uasin Gishu.

“By lying to a whole nation that the Punguza Mizigo Bill has failed, before 40 counties have debated it, the Deputy President has shown his contempt for the ordinary mwananchi that he has failed and lied to in the last six years,” said Dr Aukot.

Nairobi lawyer-cum-political analyst JM Waiganjo said the near collapse of the bill could be due to lack of funds, personnel, publicity and resources.

Mr Waiganjo said mainstream political parties vouching for the Building Bridges Initiative had used huge resources to ensure the Aukot-led process does not succeed.

“There has also been political corruption where some MCAs were given money to reject the proposals. The Punguza Mizigo (Bill) also lacked incentives or high backers. As a result, the proposals were not even debated in the county assemblies but rejected without any scrutiny,” the former Ol Joro Orok MP said.

BBI ENEMIES

Although Mr Ruto had been cited in some quarters as among its funders following his lieutenants’ opposition to the BBI, Mr Waiganjo said there was no evidence the Aukot initiative would help his push for presidency.

Mr Waiganjo said Uasin Gishu, the only county assembly that has passed the bill, could have done so due to its opposition to BBI, whose main principle is to expand the executive to accommodate more communities.

The creation of more seats to accommodate political bigwigs has been dismissed as narrow political interests by Mr Ruto and his allies.

The lawyer said the international community and some Kenyans who genuinely needed change in political discourse could also have funded the Punguza Mizigo initiative, as “Aukot is as an advocate of the High Court has no capacity to go round the country.”

Dr Aukot, a former executive in the Committee of Experts that drafted the 2010 Constitution might have been motivated by insights he had on the document and his ambition to be President to agitate for change of the law.

MCAs BRIBED

The major political players — Jubilee and ODM — have been critical of the bill. Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju says the party supports BBI, which “is a government initiative”. ODM leader Raila Odinga has also been rallying for BBI.

On Sunday, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale told off Dr Aukot, saying the Bill’s failure was overdue.

“Ekuru Aukot has no single MCA. He lost terribly in the presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial, parliamentary and county assembly elections and even didn’t qualify to get one nominated MCA. So how does he expect his Bill to sail through?” posed Mr Duale.

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna criticised Dr Aukot over claims that some MCAs had been intimidated to reject his Bill. “Other than the statement we issued giving the party’s position on the bill, we haven’t contacted individual MCAs. So how did we intimidate MCAs?” posed Mr Sifuna.