Uhuru’s best kept secret: Allies in the dark on referendum - Daily Nation

Uhuru’s best kept secret: Allies in the dark on referendum

Tuesday October 9 2018

Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko during a clean-up of Uhuru Market on October 6, 2018. PHOTO | GOVERNOR'S PRESS SERVICE 

By NATION TEAM
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President Uhuru Kenyatta's position on whether and what to change in the Constitution is so closely guarded that even his media handlers are in the dark.

Acting Spokesperson Kanze Dena said her team was not in a position to state where the President stood on a matter that has polarised the country.

“It’s hard for me to comment on the issue because the President has not talked about it publicly. I am not in his mind and I don’t want to guess his thinking because I will be engaging in rumours,” Ms Dena told the Nation yesterday.

CONDITION

President Kenyatta has maintained a studious silence on the issue even as Deputy President William Ruto appeared to support a referendum on condition that the changes benefit the citizenry rather than tweak the executive to include more politicians.

On Monday, Mr Ruto said changing the Constitution was not a priority.

Speaking at Kimutwa market in Machakos where he launched a 12km Kimutwa-Kwa Mutisya road being constructed by the national government, Mr Ruto said delivering the Big Four agenda was of bigger importance.

AMENDMENT

He accused people who were against making changes on the draft constitution before passing it of hypocrisy, saying they were now pushing for its amendment.

He said the debate would be objective only when the referendum question is floated. "Politics ended last year. What remains is for us to unite and work for the people. The people want roads, electricity, education for their children and health. Those who lost should wait for another election in 2022,” said Mr Ruto.

"We told them to correct the draft constitution before passing it but they told us it was perfect, now they want us to change it," he said. Proponents of the changes, he said, were doing it for selfish reasons.

Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka said there were people who wanted to push the President to continue leading after expiry of his term and against his wish.

CAMPAIGNS

While joining residents of Uhuru estate, Nairobi, on Saturday for the monthly clean-up drive, President Kenyatta berated those who have set the country on an early 2022 campaign mode.

He dismissed a request by Makadara MP George Aladwa that the Constitution should be amended to extend his term of office.

ODM leader Raila Odinga has come out strongly in favour of a referendum to give the Building Bridges Initiative (the handshake) a legal platform to succeed. The initiative seeks to promote inclusivity in government.

Jubilee Party secretary-general Raphael Tuju could not be reached to state the party position while the party vice chairman David Murathe declined to comment.

HOSTILITIES

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna yesterday said the course towards the referendum depends on the Buildings Bridges task force appointed by both the President and Mr Odinga, saying that was the beginning of the clamour for reforms.

The initiative is a product of the famous March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. It was gazetted in May and given one year to submit its comprehensive advice to President Kenyatta on the best way to end hostilities that have rocked the country in the past.

AGREEMENT

Mr Sifuna said the report of the task force will provide the framework though which the amendments will be carried out. “It all started there. The handshake was the origin of this discussion,” he said. “This is the baby of the President and Mr Odinga and nobody else can implement their agreement other than themselves,” he said.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, who supports the amendments to the Constitution, yesterday said since there is a consensus, the referendum should be conducted by the end of next year.

“Everybody agrees that amendments are necessary. Now we should sit down, agree and ensure the exercise is conducted and done away with,” he told the Nation.

EXECUTIVE

The Civil Society Reference Group said the referendum being proposed should be held two years before the 2022 general election to make it possible for the reforms envisaged in the amendments to take root ahead of the polls.

Among the envisaged changes include the redesigning of the executive structure to create positions of the prime minister and two deputies, whether the Senate, position of woman representative and nominated legislators should be scrapped and the number of counties and constituencies reduced.

“These are changes with far-reaching legislative and operational implications that have to be done early and in good time if they are to impact positively in the 2022 elections,” CSRG, through its convener Churchill Suba, said.