By Samuel Ouma
Kenyans have expressed their opinions on the quest for the constitutional amendment with majority pledging solidarity to leaders pushing for the change saying the proposal is good for the ordinary citizens.
“Let the changes come. If there must be a referendum Kenyans will vote overwhelmingly in favor of the constitutional review. Everybody has noticed flaws in the current constitution. There are many elected leaders who are not helpful, only burdening us with high tax,” said Evelyn Wanjiru, a cloth vendor in Nairobi.
In the last few weeks an appeal to change the constitution has gained momentum. Numerous leaders have been calling for a referendum to diminish the soaring public wage bill, address electoral injustices, strengthen devolution and open the door to a parliamentary system of government.
The opposition Chief Raila Odinga is rallying Kenyans to support the constitution amendment saying the targeted changes are meant to fix some longstanding issues which current constitution cannot solve. The former Prime Minister is pushing for the re-introduction of the parliamentary system of government and reduction of the number of county government from 47 to 14.
The National Supper Alliance leader has proposed creation of the post of Prime Minister and his two deputies. He attributed dominance of some ethnic group and marginalization of other communities to enormous power and authority given to the president by the current constitution. He has claimed that the governing authority should not be under one person.
“We agreed with the President that as soon the task force finishes collecting views across the country, the buck will stop with the people through another vote,”Raila reiterated.
The task force is a 14-member Building Bridges Initiative that was unveiled following the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. The team was tasked to evaluate the national challenges and make recommendations and reform proposals. The team finished its task last month and submitted its report.
Raila’s proposals were also echoed by Tiaty Member of Parliament Kassait Kamket. His Bill proposes creation of the post of the Prime Minister, scrapping of the position of Deputy President and a ceremonial president elected by parliament. He wants the President to serve for a single seven year term and no limits to Prime Minister.
“The Bill seeks to amend the constitution to limit the president to a ceremonial role of Head of State and a symbol of national unity,” reads the Bill.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya had the same proposals in mind. However, they have called for an audit of the current constitution before calling for referendum.
“The church was very vocal in our opposition to the proposed constitution in 2015, which we agreed needed reform. Time has come for a proper and comprehensive audit of the constitution. Any referendum should be informed by what Kenyans say they need, not based on what politicians dictate for themselves,” said Bishop Mark Kariuki, chairperson Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.
Elsewhere, the former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot is in search one million signatures to change the supreme law of the land dubbed reduce burden. He wants the number of legislators reduced from 416 to 194 and Parliament’s annual budget be cut by at least Ksh. 30 billion ($ 30 million). On Wednesday, October 3, 2018 he divulged that he has gathered 500,000 signatures.
On Wednesday, Pan African Visions reached several Kenyans to hear their say on the proposed amendments and got the following feedbacks;
“The posts of Women representatives, senators, nominated legislators and members of county assemblies should be done away with to ease burden on ordinary citizens,” reiterated Martin Mugambi, a banker.
“It is too early to decide whether to propose or oppose the changes, I do not see anything hindering me from supporting it if the changes will cater for our needs,” Mary Chelagat, a hawker.
“Politicians are a disgrace to our motherland. They prioritize their selfish ambition in courtesy of their leadership positions. I have made up my mind, no taking part in any electoral process in this country,” Elias Njoroge, a taxi driver noted.
The call for referendum, however, has heightened political rivalry between the deputy president William Ruto and Raila Odinga. Ruto’s allies have castigated the ODM party leader for mischief in referendum calls at a time the country is struggling with high cost of living. They claim Raila’s aim is to get to the government through the backdoor.
“Let’s stop this referendum debate and focus on solving problems affecting the common citizens,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.