Raila says Constitutional changes will help fix Kenya’s perennial ills

NASA principals Musalia Mudavidi, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka during the ODM National Delegates’ Conference at Orange House, Nairobi, on February 23 /JACK OWUOR
NASA principals Musalia Mudavidi, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka during the ODM National Delegates’ Conference at Orange House, Nairobi, on February 23 /JACK OWUOR

Opposition chief Raila Odinga has given the clearest signal that amendment of the Constitution may be inevitable to actualise the unity deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In what is likely to deepen suspicions in the ruling Jubilee Party and renew political contests in the country, Raila said resolution of some of the issues agreed in the handshake will require changes to the supreme law.

His statement

yesterday

appeared to suggest he and Uhuru may have informally agreed that a referendum would be inescapable.

“Addressing some of these issues may require changes to some of our laws and even amendments to the Constitution. When that time comes, we must be bold enough to pick up the challenge as a matter of duty to the nation,” Raila told his ODM party’s National Executive Committee.

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The drive for a referendum has already drawn out Deputy President William Ruto and his lieutenants who have publicly voiced their opposition to any attempt to amend the 2010 Constitution to spread out executive power.

Ford Kenya leader and estranged Nasa co-principal Moses Wetang’ula has also dismissed Raila’s proposal.

The DP has likened Raila’s referendum bid to a bad workman who fights with his tools.

Some analysts have warned the handshake may sound the death knell on Ruto and Jubilee’s game plan.

“Raila’s deal with Uhuru is going to disorganise Jubilee,” predicted political analyst Javas Bigambo.

“Jubilee is not going to stick to its original plan. Uhuru Kenyatta is not so much interested in William Ruto’s ambition; he is interested in his own legacy.”

Raila is rooting for a parliamentary system of government as well as a three-tier devolved structure.

Yesterday, he announced he and Uhuru will soon unveil a series of public events across the country to outline the terms of their memorandum of understanding to Kenyans.

Raila and Uhuru had been expected to kick-start countrywide tours starting with the latter’s Nyanza political bedrock that never voted in the repeat presidential polls last year.

The plan was, however, called off in circumstances some analysts linked to the controversial second deportation of political activist Miguna Miguna.

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The secrecy surrounding the details of the unity deal has spurred

anxiety in political circles, amid speculation that the two men may have struck an understanding about undisclosed issues, including the 2022 General Election.

Among others, the vineyard is also abuzz with word that the two leaders may have agreed on several electoral reforms, including

restructuring of the troubled Independent Electorla and Boundaries Commission, which was at the centre of the disputed 2017 elections.

Three commissioners abruptly resigned last month, protesting at

the manner in which chairman Wafula Chebukati was leading the commission. They also criticised the decision to send CEO Ezra Chiloba on compulsory leave.

Last week, the two-man secretariat of Paul Mwangi and Martin Kimani released names of 14 members of what they called the advisory team of the Building Bridges Intitiative.

Sources said the team is expected to meet for the first time this week to begin putting a face to the peace initiative.

Yesterday, Raila said ODM must reorganise, rebrand and rebuild itself.

He declared that in the quest to change the Constitution, the party is prepared to work with old and new allies in the opposition and in government.

“We must stay focussed and refuse to be distracted by familiar voices that always stand on our paths to reform,” Raila said, apparently referring to Ruto who opposed the 2010 Constitution.

“ODM must take its rightful place in driving Project Kenya and the birth of a new nation within the next one year, together with other like-minded parties and leaders.”

Raila’s comments come just two days after Ruto’s confidants publicly claimed Raila was using the truce with Uhuru to scheme for the presidency.

Senate Majority leader and Ruto ally Kipchumba Murkomen claimed Raila was using the handshake to campaign for 2022.

“Raila is telling us the handshake is for the unity of this country, while in political rallies he is talking about 2022 politics,” he said on Saturday.

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But speaking in Naivasha yesterday, Raila said leaders have a duty to think beyond 2022 and put the country on a path towards lasting unity and meaningful reconciliation.

“It [the handshake] was too significant an event to be reduced to a struggle for positions, promises and ambitions of individuals,” he stated, warning that without change, the 2022 election will be messy.

“Kenya is at a crossroads. Elections are mini civil wars. Businesses close at election time. Citizens relocate to perceived safe areas at election time. Many of our citizens feel disenfranchised and excluded. Corruption is killing the nation. Citizens view each other with suspicion, mistrust and anger. A little misstep and we tip over the precipice.”

In a detailed op-ed piece at the weekend, the former Prime Minister rooted for radical change in the presidency and argued that it is the cause of perennial strife in Kenya.

“Political scientists who have studied the merits of the two systems conclude that parliamentary systems are more stable and better suited for culturally diverse societies,” Raila argued.

But Raila’s quest has renewed the rift with Ruto who opposed the current Constitution in 2010, arguing that it had shortcomings.