Will the clamour for reforms lead to third referendum?

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed speaking at Wasio SDA church during a funds drive. [Caleb Kingwara/Standard]

Following the March 9 Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, there have been calls to amend the constitution to address some of the 9-points identified by the two leaders.

Allies of the two leaders have appeared to be closing ranks and ands are now calling for a referendum to introduce new positions to accommodate more leaders.

ODM leaders have categorically called for the Bomas Draft that proposed for a parliamentary system headed by a Prime Minister.

“Addressing some of these issues may require changes to some of our laws and even amendments to the constitution. When that time comes, we must be bold enough to pick up the challenge as a matter of duty to the nation,” Raila told his party’s NEC on Tuesday.

So far Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have scoffed at calls for a referendum saying they will not support creation of positions for individuals.

In what appears to be enticing Uhuru’s supporters, COTU secretary General Francis Atwoli used the May 1 Labour day celebrations to call for introduction for PM position to accommodate the President when he retires since he is still ‘youthful’.  Uhuru will be 61 when his second and final term comes to an end.

There are fears that following recent resignation of three commissioners from the electoral agency, the county may lack a body tasked with organizing the referendum.

The commission is legally required to conduct a referendum on any question and it must be legally constituted to perform its mandate.

Under the current law, IEBC must have five commissioners to have a required quorum to conduct its affairs.

Having been crippled following the resignations, and the push to have three others remaining led by chairman Wafula Chebukati to quit, there are worries that the agency may not be in place to conduct the plebiscite.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed that although eventually the country may hold the referendum, as at now it’s not a priority arguing that it will take about 3 years to come up with a referendum question.

 “It’s too early to talk about the referendum. This is like putting the cat before the horse. The referendum will be the last thing in the cards. We have to identify issues first before thinking of the plebiscite. In my opinion a referendum is not foreseeable in the next three years. The earliest can be towards the end of 2021,” Junet said.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria too said he supports calls for a referendum only that he wants it held in August 2022 alongside the next General Election.

“Since we agree this is not about 2022, I am supporting the referendum on condition that it’s held on the second Tuesday of August 2022 so that we don’t subject the country to a continuous campaign mode.  Let’s go to the polls, to elect a president, governor, senator, MP, MCA and also vote for a referendum question,” Kuria says.

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale contends that Jubilee is not keen on amendment to the constitution, he said that no one would be interested in sabotaging the appointment of new commissioners, as the push for change will reach dead end anyway.

He cited the push for a similar referendum by the opposition in 2014, which failed after the then Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) led by Raila failed to raise the requisite one million signatures.

“The Justice and Legal Affairs committee must move with speed and present a bill on how the next selection panel will be constituted. The Bill by Kamket is waste of time because he cannot raise enough signatures,” Duale says referring to a Bill already introduced in parliament by Kanu’s William Kamket.

Senate Minority Whip Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) argued that the clamour for a constitutional change, it might not be possible with the current IEBC.

“IEBC must be reconstituted in order to play their role in verification of signatures and their role in the draft bill,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

The senator who was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Select committee co-chaired by senator Minority Leader Senator James Orengo (Siaya) and Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi, noted that the commissioners who have since resigned lost confidence in their commission.

“They resigned enmass. Chebukati does not have goodwill of the commission or the country,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

Last week, Chebukati appear before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs committee chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo and reaffirmed his resolve to stay put despite the resignation of four commissioners.

Chebukati and the 2 remaining commissioners say they will stay in office despite growing calls for their resignation.

Appearing before parliament's justice and legal affairs committee, Chebukati held he will only quit, if found unfit to hold public office but couldn't confirm whether three commissioners who quit last month, were still getting paid.