CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Punguza mizigo a non-starter

Proposals poorly thought out, fail to take into account the role of citizenry.

In Summary

• Thirdway Alliance seems to have taken a shortcut in the process outlined by the Constitution.

• Political leaders asking Kenyans to wait for BBI are right because this process has involved Kenyans from the start.

Once upon a time, the Oxen gathered to plot the destruction of the Butchers who they saw as the enemy. But, an older and wiser member of the herd said: “It’s true the Butchers slaughter us, but they do it skillfully. If the Butchers are destroyed, we shall be subject to unskilled people and suffer greatly. Butchers or not, men will always want our meat.”

There are times we think there are evil things that we change but in our hurry we end up making more grave mistakes. This is where we are with the ongoing Punguza Mizigo referendum proposal, as a country.

The initiative appears to have a good thinking behind it but has been done all wrong at all levels one can think of. It seeks to solve an issue that Kenyans have been crying about – ballooning wage bill – but the proposal causes more harm than good.

The proposals are poorly thought out and fail to take into account the role of the Kenyan citizenry in shaping the country’s laws and governance structure. Getting a million signatures cannot be said to have been involving the public in the process of seeking to amend the Constitution.

In fact, there could be a possibility that some of those signatures were forged and thus blotting the process. This is a key reason why the courts have stopped debate at the county assemblies after a challenge on the authenticity of those signatures.

Ambushing Kenyans with a bill and telling them that the train had already left the station so brace for a referendum with taxpayers’ money is bullying of the highest order. Kenyans cannot just be pushed into a process that is not accepted across the board.

It is even more worrying that in its statement on July 24, the IEBC controversially claimed that it’s not required under the Constitution to verify signatures of supporters of such a Bill.

The IEBC further admits that it does not have a mechanism of verifying the signatures meaning that it only counted them and not verify as required by the Constitution.

But there is a major concern in the process, which failed to take into account the constitutional requirement for public participation. The Punguza Mizigo team seemed to only care about the signatures it was collecting than the input of the public.

Thirdway Alliance seems to have taken a shortcut in the process outlined by the Constitution. Instead of presenting a general suggestion to the public for discussion by all stakeholders, Punguza Mizigo opted to close the space for public debate and pursue the politically easier part of presenting a draft bill to the IEBC.

Raising questions for Kenyans to interrogate and debate should be the first level of responsibility that Thirdway Alliance should have dealt with. Its leader Ekuru Aukot was the secretary of the Committee of Experts on the Constitution review process in 2019-10 and thus should know this is the right thing to do.

No constitutional change process should be done without the input of Kenyans as we have witnessed with The Thirdway Alliance bill

Punguza Mizigo touches on many parts of our Constitution and therefore the questions would have had to be very elaborate and forums very extensive in order to decide how to eventually frame the bill.

This is not a bill with a single amendment that would have required a single question to the public. It’s no doubt a complex bill that tackles many facets of the Constitution that also requires expert input, which never happened.

Ambushing Kenyans with a bill and telling them that the train had already left the station so brace for a referendum with taxpayers’ money is bullying of the highest order. Kenyans cannot just be pushed into a process that is not accepted across the board. Doing this violates their rights and puts the country at the risk of falling into more trouble than the challenges we are facing.

The political leaders asking Kenyans to wait for BBI are right because this process has involved Kenyans from the start.

No constitutional change process should be done without the input of Kenyans as we have witnessed with Punguza Mizigo. If we allow this to pass without challenging it, we will set a dangerous precedent that will see people amend the Constitution how they want – illegally.