Deputy President William Ruto has questioned the necessity of a referendum at a time when the country is planning to conduct an expensive census and boundary review before the next polls.
While fielding questions after his keynote address at Catham House, London, Dr Ruto said Kenyans will decide whether the vote should happen alongside the 2022 General Election or sooner, and if at all the referendum is necessary altogether.
“Have we reached that moment to say that we have sufficiently tested the full scope of the Constitution, or do we still need time? That will be a decision that Kenyans will have to make,” said Dr Ruto.
A member in the audience had asked him to address the question of a bloated wage bill in Kenya and whether he supports a referendum to streamline political positions and do away with the “winner takes it all” mentality politics.
“Do we have the resources to do census this year, a boundary review next year, an election in 2022 and a referendum in between? Is it reasonable? Let us put these questions into context,” posed Dr Ruto.
His speech was titled “Kenya’s unity and regional integration: challenges of inclusion, growth and change”. While reflecting on the challenges of managing change in a diverse country and the outlook ahead for both Kenya and the wider region, Dr Ruto defended devolution saying it works to build regional integration rather than demean it.
He said that after devolution in Kenya, the regional integration has been consolidated and citizens of the five EAC countries have borderless travel with limited paperwork, only requiring a national identity card.
“Devolution could harmonise a strong nation and it’s those strong nations that have the capacity to forge ahead their development agenda,” said Dr Ruto. He added that fragmentation of markets in Africa has limited the continent's capacity to engage with intercontinental trading blocs.
He refuted claims that Kenya's electoral problems are due to lack of capacity of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to manage polls for six positions.
“My honest opinion is that the electoral problems in Kenya is because of people who refuse the outcome of an election. Maybe in future, we should allow only democrats to run for an election,” quipped Mr Ruto. “In every election, there are winners and losers. That is the principle tenets of democracy,” he said.