Question and answer: MP William Kassait speaks on his radical bill

Tiaty MP William Kassait Kamket of KANU wants President to serve for only one term and preside over ceremonial functions. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Tiaty MP William Kassait Kamket has drafted a Bill that seeks to radically alter the country’s governance structure to hand Parliament the powers to elect a ceremonial one-term president. The Bill, which proposes the creation of the position of an executive prime minister as head of government, scraps that of the deputy president and establishes two deputy prime ministers. Our writer DANIEL PSIRMOI spoke to the MP about his Bill.

Q: What are you trying to cure with your draft?

A: We have had issues with the Constitution of Kenya 2010 for a long time and we have been just skirting around them. We have not had time to seriously look at what went wrong with our Constitution and why election contests have become a matter of life and death. I think it is time we looked at the root cause of why elections have become so vicious and so bad to the extent that people are entertaining talk of secession while others are talking about swearing themselves in. There is a lot of discontent with the way the country is being run. Why? Because basically what we have is what can be described a ‘Ferrari presidency ‘. A Ferrari is a rally vehicle for two, without other passengers. This Bill intends to expand the dining table to cater for 10 people instead of being reserved for two, so to speak. Everybody will be happy and that is what every Kenyan wants.

Q: Is this an individual or party move?

A: I came up with the Bill on my own. It is a private member's Bill. But given the reception it has been accorded across the political divide it seems to be going to be a Bill of the whole House. It is as if everybody has been waiting for it and no one has fundamental issues with it. I am happy that I took the initiative to come up with the Bill. If the Jubilee Party, to which I belong, decides to take it over and make it its own, I have no issues at all. I am not in this for myself but for the Republic of Kenya and posterity.

Q:  Outline the steps that led to the compilation?

A: I followed the normal processes as a legislator, coming up with Bills being part of my cardinal responsibilities having been elected by the people of Tiaty as their representative in the National Assembly. Before formulating the Bill, I took a deep breath and considered many issues. I am not reinventing the wheel, though; there has been an attempt before to introduce the changes I want effected. These things have been there and other jurisdictions have such systems that have worked. What is becoming clear is that the presidential system will not work for Kenyans well, and the sooner we change it the better.

Q: In your Bill you talk of a ceremonial president whose term will be seven years. Why seven and not five years?

A: I am trying to create stability. If you look at the Bill, I am proposing that the president be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The day-to-day administrative running of the government will be done by the PM. In as much as we will have the normal political bickering in the country, we will need to have a stabilising figure so that at the time of going to election, we already have a president in office. That is why it is important for the term of the president to overlap other elected leaders. Then also to try and bring harmony in the way things are done, knowing that if we do not do things right then there is somebody in charge. But we don’t have to call that person a president, because people are so obsessed with the name president.

Q: Your proposal is almost similar to NASA’s previous proposal of creating the office of a prime minister. Could you be working for or with the Opposition?

A: That is cheap. I am first-time MP and I have come to Parliament with clean hands. I am a Kenyan who is alive to what is happening in my country. What I am only trying to do is to make an attempt to make life easier for many Kenyans and avert a political crisis in the future. The Bill, to my surprise, seems to be liked by everybody, regardless of their political affiliation.

Q: Some of your colleagues claim the Bill is meant to clip the wings of a senior politician from your region who is eyeing the presidency, in case he is elected to office…

A: It is unfair to look at this Bill with some personalities in mind. It should be viewed as a forward-looking Bill, because that is what it is. What the Bill aspires to do is restructure the Executive and the Legislature to find a way that makes Kenya tick. Eventually those who are thinking I am targeting anyone will be overwhelmed by the massive support it will receive from the public. Along the way, they will understand that Kenya is bigger than an individual and the Bill is not meant to curtail the ambitions of anyone. We don’t want to hear cries of secession, which is dangerous as it means civil war.

Q: How do you propose to get the numbers in the National Assembly?

A: I don’t think I will have issues with numbers, everyone seems to like it. If nobody comes up with malicious reasons to block it, I see the Bill sailing through.

Q: Why do you want MCA’s to vote for senators?

A: It is a cost-cutting measure and one that is meant to reduce confusion during elections. Having members of the public choose six representatives on election day is a daunting task. MCA’s represent various wards. Let them become an electoral college and elect the senators. It is cheaper, smarter, and trending all over the world.

Q: Do you want the law to take effect this or the next term?

A: If it is passed by Parliament it will go for a referendum. After President Uhuru Kenyatta finishes his term, then it can be effected.

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