A proposal to alter the country's power structure through creation of a one-term president with diluted powers has assumed political undertones, even as key Jubilee leaders distanced themselves from it.
The draft Bill by Kanu MP William Kamtet (Tiaty) has raised political heat, with Jubilee leaders in Deputy President William Ruto’s backyard reading mischief in it ahead of his 2022 presidential bid.
Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale explained that Jubilee had nothing to do with the Bill, whose proposals could throw a spanner in Ruto’s plans for 2022.
“The proposed Bill has nothing to do with Jubilee Party. Jubilee has not at any one time met to discuss the proposed Bill and if that was to happen we shall communicate loud and clear as we have always done in our deliberations,” Mr Duale said.
But he added: “MPs are elected to the August House to legislate and their work is outlined in the Constitution under Article 109, where any member is free to originate a Bill, but the overall deciding vote is carried out by the entire House when a matter is put to the vote."
Under the proposals, the president will be elected by MPs and will serve for a single seven-year term. The prime minister, with executive authority, will be appointed by the president from among sitting MPs and will be the leader of the largest parliamentary party or coalition of parties.
In the DP’s backyard, leaders were dismissive of the Bill by Mr Kamtet (pictured), with Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen saying the country had more pressing issues to deal with.
A close ally of the DP, Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), was, however, more pointed in his rejection of the Bill. He claimed that plans were afoot to block the DP in his quest for power in 2022.
“The sponsor of the Bill has been sent by people whom we know. As legislators we are not interested in amending the Constitution. Kenyans want services, not to be used to create jobs for certain individuals who are power-hungry,” he said.
The Jubilee MPs spoke even as the Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) claimed the Bill was part of 'Jubilee power games' and a diversionary tactic from the urgent issues facing the country. Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka termed it an attempt to disenfranchise the country. "As NASA, we have expressed ourselves on this matter and our position is known. We cannot solve this matter in Parliament. More so when the matter is trivially handled through a first-time MP's private Bill that has no party backing," Kalonzo said.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi said the Bill would not comprehensively address the many components of the Constitution that need amendment.
“We need a serious structured discussion about amendments to the Constitution. The Bill is just a diversionary tactic being used by Jubilee to ensure that there is no fallout and that they hold on together,” said Mr Mbadi.
"It is a red herring by Jubilee. What the country needs is structured, all-encompassing dialogue to re-look at the entire system of our country," said Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja).
Shakeel Shabbir (Kisumu East) said the Bill was suspicious and aimed at serving particular interests.
Leaders from President Uhuru’s backyard were quick to distance themselves from the proposals, with Kieni MP Kanini Kega saying any attempt to alter the mode of electing the president would be defeated.
"Kenyans voted for the Constitution that protects the sovereignty of the people. The power to elect the president is with the people, not the National Assembly," he said.
His Mathira counterpart, Rigathi Gachagua, termed the Bill is ill-informed. “We cannot allow anything that threatens the sovereignty of the people of Kenya, especially when it comes to electing their president directly,” he noted.
Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga told Kamtet to stop making Kenya a 'guinea pig for testing different theories and ideas'.
David Pukosse (Endebess) said there would be nothing wrong with Uhuru becoming a prime minister should the proposals become law. “Electing Kenyatta to the prime minister post is not unique. Countries such as Russia have done it and it will be ideal in creating harmony in the country,” he said.
MP Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany) said the current Constitution was clear on how long the president should serve.
Tinderet MP Julius Melly said the document should go through public participation and later referendum 'because it is a weighty matter'.