Vote not off agenda yet, says Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro


KENYA: Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro has said the quest for a referendum by senators and governors was unlikely to fade away.

Jubilee senators had secured a deal from the Executive that more money will be devolved and they were now willing to back down, for now, in the push for a referendum. But the Speaker noted, “the referendum is not out of question yet”.

“The Jubilee senators have gone slow on the referendum process because they say it has been hacked or hijacked by other people. But it is not yet off the agenda. What they want to do is to give this other process a chance,” said Ethuro.

He said the Jubilee senators and governors want the political temperatures surrounding devolution to cool down. Also, they want to use more time to build consensus, so that when the matter of capping resources to the counties at a minimum of 45 per cent of all national revenues goes to the referendum, it does not divide the country. “We don’t want to go to a referendum at such a time when the country is (in a) very divisive (mood),” Ethuro told journalists at a workshop of the Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association in Naivasha.

Asset identification

The remarks come at a time when the Senate is working behind-the-scenes to identify laws that need to be repealed, amended or enacted in order to shore up the powers of the Senate and the mandate of the county governments.

“It was the job of the National Government to ensure that the counties are empowered to have the capacity to perform their duties. That was the job of the Transition Authority. Such a simple task such as the identification of assets in the counties has become very difficult,” said Ethuro.

The Transition Authority keeps on saying it did its job. But governors and senators view it as an impediment to devolution. They say the authority wants to keep the money at the centre, yet, for the past 50 years, the centre has been unable to develop some of the counties, simply because they were deemed as not viable.

The Senators unanimously agreed to push for a referendum with the governors as they wait for the determination of a case filed at the Supreme Court on the role of the Senate in the approval of the Division of Revenue between the National Government and the 47 county governments.

Though some of the senators, especially those allied to Jubilee, had abandoned the push for the referendum, those allied to the CORD remain firm in the quest.