Referendum plan gets as many cheers as jeers

Friday July 19 2019

Thirdway Alliance party leader Ekuru Aukot. He says he has a solid plan for the referendum initiative to sail through. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


A day after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) certified the referendum plan Punguza Mizigo Initiative, the move elicited mixed reactions, with some leaders saying that it was dead on arrival while others praised it as a solution to the country’s woes.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata described it as a set of “ambitiously crafted self-defeating proposals”.

“I think that the concept of Punguza Mizigo on reducing the burden of Wanjiku is laudable. We should focus our limited resources to development and service delivery as opposed to unnecessary recurrent expenditure such as allowances and travel. The proposals are over-ambitious and crafted in such a way that they do not get necessary support from stakeholders,” Mrs Waiguru said.


Mr Kang’ata dismissed the amendment proposals, saying they could die on arrival if the political bigwigs — President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President Wiliam Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga — do not endorse them.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen praised the proposals, but hinged their success on which House of Parliament will handle the bill if it gets the nod of the county assemblies.


“Those who have been frowning on the idea of a referendum must know that it is no longer a laughing matter,” he said. “This is the only proposal that may drive the country to a referendum before the 2022 general election,” he said.

Mr Murkomen added that some of the drastic suggestions may not get favour in the National Assembly.

Although they congratulated the idea of a leaner government, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr and County Assemblies Forum (CAF) chairperson and Kajiado Speaker Johnson Osoi said they don’t agree with the proposal for a one-term President.


“We might end up electing a President who just sits in office and waits to retire with a juicy package,” Mr Osoi said.

Nyeri County Assembly Speaker John Kaguchia said he intends to organise sessions for members of his assembly to objectively ventilate on all the proposals given.

“After that, every MCA should make either an individual or collective stand on the proposals to inform the outcome of the vote,” Mr Kaguchia said.

‘Unnecessary nominations’

Nyamira County Assembly Speaker Moffat Teya, who confirmed receiving the draft proposal from the IEBC, said it had set the stage to discuss the unnecessary nominations to county assemblies and the National Assembly.

“The issue of duplication of duties and over-representation due to the nominations needs to be prosecuted to reduce the wage bill,” he suggested.

Speaking in Kaaga, Meru, more than 40 woman reps allied to Deputy President William Ruto took offence with the Punguza Mizigo Initiative.


“These proposals do not consider women in their envisaged plan. There is no way we are going to accept that women of this country are the burden,” Kandara MP Alice Wahome said.

Woman representatives Beatrice Nkatha Nyaga (Tharaka-Nithi), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Faith Gitau (Nyandarua) claimed that the referendum calls were meant to isolate youth and women.

The Punguza Mizigo initiator, former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot, said he has been meeting governors and senators in efforts to woo them to support the constitutional review.

According to our queries, a number of governors, mainly in the Rift Valley, central Kenya and eastern, have already made commitments to support the initiative, which if passed will see an increase in county allocations from 15 per cent to 35 per cent of the annual audited revenues.

The Saturday Nation has also learnt that the team met IEBC officials, who informed them that there was enabling legislation to support a referendum if MPs refuse to pass a draft bill in support of the initiative.

“We sat down and planned everything to the end. Before we even thought of starting to collect signatures, we met officers from the IEBC who took us through all the processes that we will have to follow for our success,” Mr Aukot said on Friday.


As the process went on, Mr Irungu Nyakera, the chairperson of the Political Parties Liaison Committee, revealed that the Thirdway Alliance political party, the sponsor of the initiative, had also reached out to other political parties for support.

“The other political parties believed in the initiative as it deepens the democratic space in our nation and provides an avenue for grassroots consultation on the direction that our democracy should take in the future,” Mr Nyakera said.

On Thursday, the IEBC okayed the 1.2 million signatures submitted by the group, officially kicking off the process.

Mr Aukot said the initiative was based on Article 257 of the Constitution, which provides for amendments through popular initiative.

“We drafted the 16 issues in the Constitution and came up with a draft which will only require a Yes or No answer,” Mr Aukot said. “You will simply be asked whether you support the Constitution or not. This will be conducted in a similar manner to the 2005 referendum.”