The political class is split on NASA leader Raila Odinga’s call for a referendum next year.
At the weekend, the ODM supremo proposed a referendum after the 14-member Building Bridges initiative team has submitted its report.
Some politicians across the divide have supported the call.
Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali, speaking to the Star from New York where he accompanied President Uhuru to the 73rd UN General Assembly Summit, threw his weight behind the calls for law change, noting a winner-take-all system should be done away with.
“That will be the way to go if we are to get Kenya back on track. Otherwise, we’ll be blaming whoever becomes President. The truth is that the Constitution is very expensive to fund,” he said.
“Blotted leadership should be reassessed. Functions of the national and county governments and their related budgets clarified.”
National Assembly minority leader John Mbadi also backed the call, saying the Constitution has put unnecessary weight on Kenyans.
“This is one thing everyone is talking about differently. You will either hear people say the government is too heavy or some talk of overrepresentation. What people are not saying is that we need constitutional amendments,” he said.
“It’s time we reviewed the Constitution. We better review it early enough.”
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi supported a parliamentary system of government as was contained in the Bomas draft.
“I support referendum, especially on the structure of government, devolution and separation of powers,” he said.
Others said a referendum is uncalled-for. Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa said the calls are baseless and only meant to few powerful positions for “some individuals”.
“The push is just championed by a few power-hungry individuals. The individuals are lying to Kenyans that we are overrepresented, yet the main intention is to create plum positions in government for the big boys,” the National Assembly Budget and Appropriations committee chairman said.
“Referendum is not a priority for this country because what Kenyans need right now is to have the cost of living lowered. As a nation, we should focus on growing our economy.”
Former Presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot said Raila intends to create top leadership positions for the Nasa co-principals.
He said his party, the Third Way Alliance, kickstarted the push based on seven pillars with an intention of lowering the cost of living by reducing the wage bill.
“This is one of the agenda of building bridges so that the Nasa co-principals get powerful positions in government. I’m yet to comprehend Raila’s intention of calling for referendum,” Aukot said.
“What exactly is Raila pushing for in the first place? He just wants to be included in government.”
BUCK STOPS WITH VOTERS
Presiding the official launch of the Unaitas Sacco Kisumu branch, Raila said amendments would be in line with his handshake deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He said targeted changes are meant to fix some of the longstanding issues, which the Constitution, in its present provisions, cannot solve.
“We agreed with the President that as soon as the task force finishes collecting views across the country, the buck will stop with the people through another vote,” Raila said.
Kathiani lawmaker Robert Mbui supported amendments but cautioned that 2019 will be too close to last year’s election.
“We’ve just come from an election. The idea of a referendum is definitely a good idea,” he said.
The Building Bridges Initiative team was gazetted on May 31 and was tasked to, among others, evaluate the national challenges and make practical recommendations and reform proposals that would lead to a law change through a referendum.
The team comprises Agnes Kavindu, Senator Amos Wako, Prof. Adams Oloo, Florence Omose, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura and Major (Rtd) John Seii.
Others are Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Maison Leshomo, Senator Yusuf Haji, Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Rose Moseu and Archbishop Zecheus Okoth. Amb. Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi are joint secretaries.