Raila Odinga hints at referendum this year

Thursday February 14 2019

Opposition leader Raila Odinga meets with Kenya University Students Organisation members at his Capitol Hill office on February 14, 2019. He said a referendum is necessary. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday hinted that a referendum to amend the Constitution could be held this year.

He told politicians still undecided on the need for constitutional change to declare their stand.

“This year is going to be a year of change in this country. We want to look at our governance structures and see what needs to be rectified,” he said.

“We want to change this country, and the change movement is on. Anybody who does not want to move with it will be left behind,” he added.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader was speaking after meeting members of the Kenya Universities Students Organisation (Kuso), led by their matron, Ms Agnes Kagure, at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.



Mr Odinga spoke days after Deputy President William Ruto opposed the expansion of the Executive and instead proposed the creation of an office of the opposition leader to keep the government of the day in check.

Speaking at Chatham House in London, United Kingdom, last week, Dr Ruto said that it is not proper that the leader of a party that garners the second highest votes in a presidential election ends up with no formal role in the country's governance.

“I further propose that, with the leader of the opposition taking leadership of the opposition in Parliament, the Deputy President should take over the leadership of government business in Parliament. This should be replicated with the deputy governors in the counties,” he said.

The DP also appeared to suggest that a referendum, a boundary review and a general election in the space of five years are not economically viable.


In December, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the clearest signal that the country could hold a referendum to scrap the "winner-take-it-all" system of government.

Speaking during his first trip to Kisumu since his March 9 handshake with Mr Odinga, the President said the current system unfairly excludes some communities from leadership.

He said it was necessary to have a structure that accommodates even election losers to prevent the feeling of marginalisation that triggers post-election violence.

“We said we must look at this issue of winner takes it all. If that is why some people feel left out of government, we must ask ourselves, 'Is this a good thing or not,"' he said.


At the venue, Mr Odinga said that the plebiscite will be conducted with no coercion.

“This is a democratic exercise and Kenyans will not be forced to do one thing or the other. It is going to be voluntary and, at the end of it, we will decide how we are going to transform the governance structure as the people of Kenya,” he said.

University leaders who brought Mr Odinga a Valentine’s Day cake promised to support any referendum.

“We fully support the Constitution’s amendment but propose the introduction of students’ representation in both Parliament and the Senate. This is vital in addressing the issues affecting students in institutions of higher learning,” Mr Anthony Manyara, University of Nairobi Students Association leader, said.