EXPERT COMMENT

Best time for a referendum is 2020

In Summary

• President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga sat and agreed to form the Building Bridges Initiative.

• Time is available to conduct the plebiscite, having fallen in between two general elections. 

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Building Bridges chair Senator Yusuf Haji and Adams Oloo - a member of the team, during a briefing at Capitol Hill, Nairobi, August 1, 2018.
ODM leader Raila Odinga with Building Bridges chair Senator Yusuf Haji and Adams Oloo - a member of the team, during a briefing at Capitol Hill, Nairobi, August 1, 2018.
Image: FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga sat and agreed to form the Building Bridges Initiative.

They formed a team to deal with nine issues to do with inclusivity, security, devolution, electoral reforms among others.

When you look at the totality of those issues, chances are that for you to address them properly, you may require some change in the supreme law. It should also be tied to what has been popularly talked about that, when we passed the Constitution in 2010, we agreed the new dispensation was better than the post-independence one but had gaps to be addressed.

 

This explains why it is unlikely that the BBI team would come up with recommendations which may not occasion a referendum. Bearing in mind that Article 255 of the Constitution prescribes areas where a change would need a referendum, chances are that we may touch on those areas. Since the BBI report is yet to be released, I cannot speak for them but argue from what Kenyans said when they presented their memoranda to the team.

In a nutshell, chances are very high – say over 90 per cent - that we will have a referendum.

We must be alive to the fact that the Constitution is now heading to 10 years. When you have a comprehensive overhaul of the supreme law of a country, it doesn’t take long before you realize the need for the first amendment. No matter how well researched a supreme law is, people must realize some gaps – which are only possible after you test the same.

You can only feel the inadequacy of something after you test it. Having tested the Constitution for nine years, we can easily say we know areas where it is hurting. Remember during the campaigns for the constitution, all Kenyans agreed some 20 per cent was bad and only differed on when (time) to deal with the issues. The time has come for that amendment to be done.

There is enough time. A Constitution amendment is best done in between two general elections. Working with the timeline, you cannot hold a referendum in the first year after an election, and in the last year. Therefore, the best year is the third and fourth year – 2020 and 2021. The second-year – 2019, is usually for preparation. To me, the most appropriate time for the vote is 2020, latest 2021.

The Minority leader and Suba South MP spoke to the Star