Calls for a referendum have built up momentum this past week with ODM party, Women leaders, Deputy President William Ruto and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka weighing in on the matter with suggestions of their own.
It is clear however that a lot of focus is being placed on the Executive arm with the ODM leadership and the Women’s Building Bridges movement pushing for its expansion and inclusion of the Prime Minister position. Wiper leader, Kalonzo seemed to be on the same wavelength with the two groups on the matter until he added a twist to it with calls for the removal of the presidential term limit, reminiscent of former President Moi Days.
The Deputy President on the other hand dismissed the clamour for the PM arrangement and instead proposed that the runner-up in the election becomes leader of the opposition. Which addresses a valid concern with the current lack of opposition in place to play watchdog.
But while we’re on the subject of a referendum, how many of the leaders have actually consulted the public to get their perspective on the implementation of the 2010 constitution so far? Do they acknowledge if the National government arms adhered to the constitution there would be no need for new positions?
While processing this, it’s good to applaud the efforts by Third Way Alliance Party Leader, Ekuru Aukot who through his Punguza Mzigo Campaign has openly addressed the matter of over-representation that MPs seem to conveniently shy away from. He has proposed that the current 290 constituencies be scraped off and the 47 counties be considered as single constituency units. If the proposal is implemented, the number of MPs would be a mere 147 [47 senators, 94 MPs – a man and woman from each county and 6 special interest seats] instead of the 416 we have presently. Not only will this lessen the burden on the taxpayer but it will also create a good avenue for thorough scrutiny of each member’s record and allow the public to hold them to account. The two-thirds rule would also be automatically realized.
On the other hand, it is becoming evident that leaders do not have the interests of the people at heart, since the new positions being proposed are just a safety net for them in the case of an unfavorable outcome during an election. Notwithstanding, the fact the elected Members of National Assembly and Women Representatives entrench a conflict of interest in allocating themselves Constituency Development Funds (NG-CDF) and the Affirmative Action Funds (NG-AAF) respectively. MPs implementation tasks undertaken using the two funds are often a duplication of National and County Government functions.
It is about time that any constitutional amendments proposed come from the taxpayers and made their way to the top and not the other way around. For the longest time we’ve been accustomed to boardroom decisions that are presumed to represent Wanjiku’s voice.
However, we must give credit where it’s due. Third Way Alliance and ODM’s one 7-year non-renewable term for the presidency will challenge the seat-holders to achieve as much as possible during their tenure, as opposed to banking on a second term to “leave a legacy” and make up for the first term they didn’t maximize on. Women leaders have also made a good step towards inclusivity, with calls for equal representation in non-elective positions such as the cabinet and all arms of government that will replicate Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While we expect more leaders to join in on the referendum calls, they should always remember that they serve at the pleasure of their constituents. They should therefore appropriately represent them and involve them in decision making before calling on them to go to the ballot.
Kenyans must also stay vigilant and resist the temptation to be roped into the political theatrics that our leaders may resort to while drumming support for whatever agenda they may be pushing. At the end of the day, there is power in our vote and we should find the devil in the details as leaders continue presenting draft proposals to the Building Bridges Initiative rather than falling for their bait.