Calls for constitutional amendments gained momentum at the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Mombasa on Saturday when leaders supported the call for a referendum.
Led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Mombasa governor Hassan Joho and senators James Orengo and Moses Wetang’ula, more than 20 governors, senators and tens of MPs declared the referendum was inevitable.
Deputy President William Ruto ally Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who led Tangatanga leaders in the meeting at Mama Ngina Drive, threw his weight behind the BBI.
Mr Odinga also supported 16 resolutions by the coastal people among them the need for a referendum. The resolutions were read by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi.
The opposition leader said that the drive for referendum through BBI was “a train that has already left the station.”
“What we now need to do for us to reach our destination is to be an iron like a lion in Zion. We have heard what the coastal people want. They are not new because this is not the first time that they are being said, but the difference is that this time around those issues will be implemented,” said Mr Odinga.
Top among the issues the coastal leaders want included in the BBI report that will be presented to the task force appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta is the issue of land ownership, expansion of the executive by having a position for a President, a Prime Minister and two deputies, creation of and upper and lower coast region, establishment of regional governments while retaining the counties and all port operations to be undertaken at the port facilities.
Mr Odinga said the formation of three-tier government was pushed by Coast leader Ronald Ngala.
Mr Musyoka said for the issues raised by the coastal leadership to be achieved, there must be the Constitution which can only be done through a referendum.
“For us to have a federal system, we must have a referendum. You cannot touch some laws without going through it,” said Mr Musyoka.
Governor Joho, who is also the ODM deputy party leader, said going by the number of governors at the meeting, the referendum push was already realised.
“We have at least 24 governors here. What we need is 20 counties for us to pass the referendum. Tell me who can stop that. What Raila has said cannot be stopped,” said Mr Joho.
Mr Wetangula said the changes that are being proposed to the BBI should not go beyond 2020.
He said the constitutional change and referendum were inevitable. Mr Orengo said the country will be having the referendum by July.
In reference to Mr Murkomen’s support for the BBI and the referendum Mr Orengo said: “If you want to see a miracle, do not go to church tomorrow [Sunday] because it has happened today. Murkomen has called Raila Baba and talked of the referendum.”
When he took to the stage, Mr Murkomen stunned the crowd after he started his address by acknowledging Mr Odinga before he threw his support for the referendum.
“It is no longer us versus them. We will work together as Kenyans. I support the creation for the position of PM and other positions to be made,” said Mr Murkomen.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who led Mt Kenya leaders in the meeting, said through BBI, there will be a referendum that would allow women have a chance in the next government.
“We will also be able to do away with the issue of having only two tribes leading other Kenyans. We will see the issue of inclusivity addressed once and for all through BBI,” said Ms Waiguru.
Kilifi governor who spoke on behalf of the coastal leaders said they had faith that BBI would address issues affecting the region.
He said the coastal people hope BBI will address the issue of land grabbing, economy will improve and coast leaders will have a chance to represent their people at the national table.
Other issues that formed part of the resolutions Mr Kingi read included provision of funds for growth of key sectors in the region, revival of defunct industries in the region, creation of an independent social and economic impact assessment commission and creation of a blue economy ministry that would be led by a CS from the region.
The others were equitable inclusion and representation of the coastal people, exploitation of natural resources to benefit the locals, equity in education, creation of regional police authorities to address the issues of insecurity, fight against graft and development of special programmes to revive tourism.