alexa For whose benefit is this referendum talk? - Daily Nation

For whose benefit is this referendum talk?

Saturday September 21 2019

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The raging debate on the need for constitutional change requires thorough interrogation because the public risks being duped and railroaded into a contest it scarcely understands.

Two broad formations are pushing or mulling over law review. They are Punguza Mizigo and Building Bridges Initiative.

Even though the latter has not published the findings of its nationwide consultative enterprise, it is understood, through its proponents, that it will recommend a referendum.

This week, governors joined the debate by reigniting the Ugatuzi Initiative, whose pillar is increasing funding to the counties and giving more powers to county assemblies.

Spearheaded by the Council of Governors, the Ugatuzi Initiative also seeks to expand the Executive by creating a powerful position of Prime Minister, who will run government while the President becomes Head of State.



When the Constitution was enacted in 2010, it was applauded as progressive, comprehensive and inclusive. At the core was dispersal of power from the centre to the grassroots.

It created 47 counties with independent administrations: two chambers of Parliament – the National Assembly and the Senate – as well as several constitutional bodies to run different aspects of government.

What informed this was the experience of the past, where the national government, and the Presidency in particular, wielded a lot of power that was often misused, leading to skewed national development.

Despite the elaborate provisions, there is a constant and consistent push to change the laws.

But there must be a basis for the clamour for change, which is why the country needs to engage in serious debate to deeply examine the contentious issues and decide whether or not they ought to change the law. And, if so, how.


The country risks falling into the ‘choice trap’ if it is given moot options, such that whatever is picked presents a loss-loss outcome.

For instance, one of the popular arguments is funding devolution; that the law should be revised to raise the minimum allocation from 15 per cent to at least 45 per cent.

A critical examination of the proposal reveals that, even with the obtaining proviso, counties can still get huge allocations.

Similarly, the proposition on governance is not backed by solid argument, other than a desire to create positions to serve political players.

Our argument is that Kenyans should not be hoodwinked into joining an insincere referendum bandwagon.