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IMENDE: Referendum push plot by politicians to remain relevant, influential

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Deputy William Ruto/file
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Deputy William Ruto/file

The fight for positions in post-President Uhuru Kenyatta government has intensified, with politicians pushing for

a referendum

to expand the Executive.

Pundits, politicians and civil society groups say the referendum push is part of the wider scheme for top politicians to remain relevant

post-2022, and to have an influence in the next government.

“A nation of contradictions! We applaud plans to amend the Constitution to accommodate presidential election losers in the Executive but fight

the appointment

of other election losers to state corporations,” former Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow said.

“Being penny wise and pound foolish, to say the least.”

Those who have already shown their interest for the country’s top seat in the coming polls are Deputy president William Ruto, Nasa founder and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula. Although opposition leader Raila Odinga has not publicly said he will be on the ballot, it is widely seen that we will still vie.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who previously said he would not play second fiddle to anyone else after 2017 polls on Tuesday appeared to make an about-turn when he said he would take the position of Deputy Prime Minister if the constitutional changes go through, and Uhuru takes the position of Prime Minister.

“If by any chance Wiper, ANC, ODM, Jubilee and Ford-Kenya merge, and I find myself contesting for position of PM with my brother Uhuru, then I would rather step down and support his bid," Kalonzo

said.

International Centre for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung’u Wainaina said, “They are amending the Constitution to create

a formula

for all them to be in government.”

And Kalonzo fell short of confirming that when he told Citizen TV that post-2022, “ you have to envision a situation where there will be an attempt to have a government of national unity, and in that government, I don’t see a way where you can write off President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He said he was preparing Kenyans for what might happen ahead.

Uhuru’s allies ignited the debate on the role of Uhuru after his two-term constitutional tenure, some saying he was too young to leave the government.

“Let us support the constitutional amendment so that we can have a Constitution that is accommodative,” Cotu Secretary general Francis Atwoli said at a past Makadara Day event.

Though many

masquerade

as presidential candidates or announce their bids in general elections

it is a move meant to build politicians’ national profile as well as leverage their negotiation in political alliances expecting to form a new government.

Behind the scenes, some politicians want to use the presidential race to negotiate for a stake in post-Uhuru era.

“It is an

intricate of political game involving different players. Although some are real, others are balloons being thrown in air for distraction and do tests,” Ndung’u said.

He said politicians fight to remain in government since it’s the most lucrative and machinery for extracting personal wealth.

“Most of the richest persons in Kenya were either top politicians, top civil servants, bureaucrats and or to securocrats. Simply, the government is road to personal wealth without sweat,” he said.

BUILDING BRIDGES INITIATIVE

Atwoli remarks came months after Uhuru and Raila formed and gazetted the Building Bridges taskforce following the March 9 handshake last year. The handshake — which some say has isolated Ruto — was meant to look into constitutional amendments that could foster national unity and peaceful elections.

“If we don’t change the Constitution where is Uhuru going and he is young? He will disturb some people,” Atwoli said.

In his new book Treason: The Case Against Tyrants and Renegades Miguna Miguna says Raila was, in fact, against the swearing-in and adds that the handshake killed the controversial oath.

He, however, notes that those close to Uhuru had planned to sideline Ruto immediately after the polls.

“There are those who want change to capture

power

through

the parliamentary

system, those who want no change and those who want a hybrid system so that they can have jobs after

their

current terms(especially governors) end,” Ndung’u.

RAILA BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

The opposition leader is back to the drawing board, with ODM officials confirming to the Star that the party is rebuilding ahead of 2022.

“Building the party is a continuous process,” ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna told the Star on the phone. “It involves many things.”

ODM wants the restructuring of the Executive to re-introduce a parliamentary system, the creation of a Prime Minister post and have a President elected by a college of legislatures in its submissions to the task force mandated to collect views from the public on ways of enhancing national unity.

“This will be the year of change for this country,” Raila said on

Thursday

at Capitol Hill after meeting student leaders from various universities.

The ODM leader, who is also the AU Special Envoy for Infrastructure, believes has also endorsed some of the proposals in his push for a referendum.

Lawmakers from Nyanza offered Uhuru the position of Prime Minister if he supports Raila for President during his tour of the region last December. They want Uhuru to endorse Raila as his successor. In return, they will support a referendum and endorse Uhuru for Prime Minister after his term ends.

“You make a choice to be with us or not. Nobody will stop the change that is coming,” Raila told the students.

RUTO’S OPTIONS

Interviews from DP’s close allies point to a man walking a tight rope. Ruto is torn between easing his supporters' anger over his maintaining his loyalty to his boss, Uhuru.

“My advice to him is to quit the government and begin hitting at Uhuru as a betrayer. Tell the Kikuyus that this is not how to live with other Kenyans. He can also look for other people who have been betrayed before, such as

Kalonzo, and work with them,”

political analyst Herman Manyora

told the Star in the past interview.

The DP, knowing that Mount Kenya had planned to weaken the presidency or fail to support him in the coming polls, he has decided to play ball.

Former Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe has already publicly said there exists a Stop Ruto Movement.

Ruto in his Chatham House speech proposed the creation and recognition of the Official Opposition in Parliament.

“It was not proper that the leader of a party garnering the second highest votes had no formal constitutional role,” the DP said

last Saturday in London.

Close allies told the Star that Ruto is ready to endorse two strong candidates and go for the country’s premier position if the referendum goes through.

MUDAVADI’s BID

The former VP and Deputy Prime Minister has already set up teams to plan his presidential bid.

Mudavadi has also warned that he will only support a process driven by wananchi.

“The moment and the process cannot be fenced in by a small elite cabal that is engaged in a divisive jungle-style political popularity contest,”

he said.

“Over the past eight years, those charged with implementing the Constitution have done so only hesitantly. Sometimes they have been outright unwilling to implement it — and at other times gone flat out to frustrate it,” Musalia said.

He said the referendum debate must not be restricted to a small segment of the political elite who want to placate Kenyans with amendments of the kind Kenya experienced in 1965, 1966 and 1982 “....[These included] abolishing devolved government and the Senate, or expanding an already bloated Executive,” Mudavadi said.

The former Sabatia MP believes electoral injustice, corruption, tribalism and incompetence can be addressed if those in power implement Chapter Six of the Constitution on integrity.