Senators and MPs oppose age limit petition on presidency

Senate minority leader James Orengo (center) flanked by Kisumu county senator Fred Outa (left) and majority leader Kisumu County Assembly Kennedy Onyango at a past function. Raila's allies have vowed to vote out the proposed changes. [File, Standard]
The battle to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta took a new turn after Opposition MPs declared they would fight a bid to bar anyone above 70 years from running for president, saying it targeted Raila Odinga.

A petition by Mohammed Mohammud Sheikh of Wajir, which is before Parliament, is now being viewed by MPs allied to Raila as a threat to his presidential candidature in 2022 and they have vowed to oppose it in the House. 

Kisumu Senator Fred Outa acknowledged the issue was being discussed informally, adding that many senators had vowed to block the petition, which should be decided by next month.

"We have been discussing this in many of our meetings and it defies sense to us," said Mr Outa, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Security, Defence and Foreign Relations.

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Olago Aluoch (Kisumu West MP), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Rosa Buyu (Kisumu Woman Rep), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay Woman Rep), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Shakeel Shabbir (Kisumu East), Fred Ouda (Kisumu Central), Mark Nyamita (Uriri) and Paul Abuor (Rongo) said the petition was discriminatory.

Ms Wanga said they would deal with the matter when it was brought to Parliament.

"We are waiting for it with bated breath. You don't make laws for individuals but Kenyans," she said.

Although they did not mention Raila, the unease reportedly stems from the fact that Raila will be 77 in 2022, when the next presidential elections are due.

Among those in the running to succeed Uhuru, who steps down after serving the constitutional two-term limit, is his deputy William Ruto, who is expected to be the ruling party's flag-bearer.

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The petition is still in the preliminary stages; were it to succeed, it would have to be formulated into a Bill to amend the Constitution.

It does however add a new dimension to the clamour for constitutional reforms that Raila and his camp are backing but which Ruto has dismissed as a campaign by election losers seeking new posts ahead of the next election.

Ms Buyu said the petition sought to bar old hands from ascending to leadership and would reverse Kenya's democratic process.

"We can only limit the duration one can stay in power to avoid sustaining for decades autocratic regimes that are insensitive to the plight of the people. Age doesn't matter," added Mr Amollo.

Ochanda and Nyamita alleged a malicious attempt to isolate some Kenyans from exercising their democratic rights.

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National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale termed the petition unconstitutional.

"What is before the House is a petition, and the Justice and Legal Affairs committee will throw it out for being unconstitutional," said Mr Duale.

Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju dismissed the debate as "useless", saying it was unfortunate some political elites were concerned about 2022 at the expense of development.

According to the petitioner, a 70-year-old cannot discharge national duties and functions effectively.

And despite terming the motion frivolous and malicious, committee chairman William Cheptumo said they would entertain the petitioner and hear his reasoning on why he thinks people over 70 years cannot be presidents.

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Only Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno appeared to support the spirit of the motion, saying some people, including MPs, wanted to remain in power even beyond their productive age.

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