Uhuru hints at referendum to share power

President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledges greetings from wananchi at Ahero, Kisumu county on Thursday, December 13, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledges greetings from wananchi at Ahero, Kisumu county on Thursday, December 13, 2018. /PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday gave the clearest signal yet that the country could be headed for a referendum to scrap what he termed a destructive "winner-takes-all" system of government.

Opening up for the first time about pre-handshake talks with his new opposition soulmate Raila Odinga, Uhuru said the current presidential system was unfairly excluding some communities from leadership.

The President said it was necessary to have a government structure that accommodates even election losers to prevent the bitterness among Kenyans that has triggered post-poll violence.

“We said we must look at this issue of winner takes all. If that is why some people feel left out of government, we must ask ourselves, 'Is is a good thing or not',” Uhuru said during his first tour of Raila's Nyanza backyard, previously considered an opposition bedrock.

Speaking in Kisumu where he was given a hero's welcome, Uhuru acknowledged that the presidential system had weaknesses that needed solutions.

This was the first major hint by the head of state of possible amendments to the Constitution to introduce an alternative system of government ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Uhuru's remarks came just days after a leaked internal paper by Raila's ODM Party revealed that the ex-Prime Minister was pushing for radical amendments, including a Parliamentary-type system of government.

Raila's think tanks also favour a three-tier system of government with 14 regional governments.

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Deputy President William Ruto, who was present during the Kisumu visit, has strongly opposed any law change and the President's hint is likely to put him in a tight corner. He wants to be President in 2022.

Uhuru, who was for the first time wildly cheered in Nyanza, said the exclusion from government was fueling grand corruption.

However, the President, Raila and Ruto were unanimous that the politics of ethnicity that often results i poll violence must end.

Raila recalled the aftermath of the 2017 polls and the anarchy that followed the repeat presidential polls, saying many Kenyans lost their lives because of political competition. Much of Nyanza boycotted that vote and Raila didn't run.

“Last year in Kisumu there were tears. People told me Raila must be sworn in...and I was sworn in. My people said we need to heap Uhuru's portraits together and burn them, then start collecting taxes and run a government,” Raila recalled

He added, “Uhuru was equally told Raila has committed a serious crime. We should arrest him, charge him for treason and hang him.”

The ODM boss said this painful standoff necessitated a political truce that resulted in his historic handshake with Uhuru on March 9.

“Through the handshake we want to unite Kenya without any ethnic or racial bias...We also want to ensure that elections happen and no Kenyan loses their life," Raila said in Kisumu.

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Ruto, known for political scheming, used the event to declare an end to hostilities with Raila.

The two continued to engage in bitter exchanges even after Uhuru declared a ceasefire with Raila.

The DP, who was accorded a warm reception, has had to fight off claims that he undermining the Building Bridges Initiative.

“And as the [ex]Prime Minister [Raila] has just said, we have agreed that our enmity of yesterdays has been buried. We opened a new chapter of unity as leaders...If you see Uhuru, Raila and the Hustler, then its show that things are okay," Ruto said.

But Uhuru and Raila rebuked Ruto's allies who have claimed the anti-graft purge is targeted at the Kalenjin community.

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Uhuru warned against “ethnicisation of the war against corruption”.

A stern Uhuru said graft lords are looting public coffers for their own benefit and then tactically using bribes to protect their stolen wealth.

"Those involved in corruption will not be spared. If you steal, you steal alone and not with your community. You should carry your own cross," Uhuru said after commissioning construction of Ahero Interchange, a road in Kisumu county.

He went on,"If you're engaged in corruption, you will go to court whether you are a Kikuyu, Kamba, Kalenjin or Luo. When you steal you steal alone. Stop ethnicising the war on corruption.”

Raila termed graft lords Kenya's enemies who should not seek protection behind their tribe.

“The war against corruption is not against anyone but Kenya's enemies...When they are taking jobs they are as thin as a needle but after nearly a year into a job they begin swelling like ticks that have sucked the blood of a cow and when they are being arrested, they begin crying my tribe is being finished,” Raila stated

Ruto's allies have been crying foul that the graft war is targeted at Kalenjin technocrats to puncture the DP's State House bid.

He himself has said the anti-corruption war must remain neutral and fair, seeming to back the claims of an onslaught on the Kalenjin community.

“Those institutions [investigative agencies] must operate independently without instructions from anybody and without serving any ethnic, regional, or any other partisan interests,” Ruto said on Friday last week.

But it was a statement from Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi that lifted the lid on the simmering unrest n Ruto's camp over ongoing corruption prosecutions.

Sudi likened the purge to what he claimed was the sacking of Kalenjin professionals after ex-President Mwai Kibaki took over in 2003.

“With the current trend of these arrests and investigations someone can easily tell that the Kalenjin community is being targeted. The sole reason for this is to taint the community's image as a corrupt people simply because their son William Ruto wants to be Kenya's fifth President,” Sudi said. He was part of the delegation in Kisumu yesterday.

He added, "I want to ask the architects of all these [prosecutions' to be clear on their agenda. We cannot sacrifice careers of our sons and daughters simply because of William Ruto's ambition. They can go ahead and arrest Deputy President if they so dare!”

Sudi claimed after the arrest at NHIF and Kenya Pipeline, the anti-graft detectives were now focusing on the Kerio Valley Development Authority whose top bosses hails from the region.

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