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President Uhuru Kenyatta, Opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto address residents of Ahero in Kisumu County on December 13. (File, Standard)

Apart from President Kenyatta who appears to have endorsed the referendum, there is a clamour for it from various groups and individuals.

The possible creation of a prime minister position, reduction in the number of counties and constituencies and scrapping of provincial administration have become clear after President Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed constitutional changes.

While addressing a crowd in Kisumu for the first time since his controversial victory last year, the President said he supported creation of an all-inclusive government that avoids a winner-takes-it-all scenerio.

His public statement is the strongest indication that the referendum could be in the offing. In the past the President has been cagey about the referendum debate that has been going on for several months now.

Perhaps the slightest hint on his now clear position was the creation of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), led by Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi.

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What’s to be changed

The endorsement by President Kenyatta now narrows the focus to what needs to be changed in the eight-year-old Constitution.

Key among the constitutional changes is the push for creation of a number of positions to accommodate losers and individuals from different communities.

Strong calls for creation of prime minister position with two deputies, a rotational presidency and a reduced legislature’s elective and nominated positions have dominated the proposals in the push for the changes.

Other calls include that of a federal system with a three-tier government, reduction of the number of counties and abolition of provincial administration.

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Though not new, the referendum calls were reawakened by opposition leader Raila Odinga who while addressing the Council of Governors in April called for a change in the system of government.

Since then, the political discourse has roped in politicians from across the political divide, including Deputy President William Ruto, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi.

A group of clerics under the banner of National Delegates Congress or Ufungamano II a month ago gave their proposed changes that included scrapping of the provincial administration and introduction of official opposition leaders in counties.

The clerics also called for a dignified office of the Opposition by enabling the runner up in the presidential election to serve as the leader of Official Opposition in the National Assembly while the running mate becomes the leader of Official Opposition in the Senate.

Raila disclosed that he agreed with President Kenyatta that after the 14-man Building Bridges Initiative team has collected views then there will be a referendum.

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The BBI has been receiving a deluge of proposals on referendum that supersedes other concerns being raised.

When they held a public hearing in Nairobi last month, Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli did not mince his words when he said the Constitution must be changed “because some people do not know how to share”.

He warned that if the supreme law is not amended, Kenyans would pay the price in 2022.

“We are going to amend the Constitution and it will come to pass. If you don’t amend it, see what will be the outcome in 2022,” he said.

Only viable solution

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Dialogue Reference Group represented by Archbishop Martin Kivuva says besides being the only viable solution to the cut throat competition that has led to fighting between communities in the past, the changes will check the excesses of the presidency.

The third group, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, says unless Kenya accepts that the benefits of power sharing outweigh its costs, it will risk following the trail of other conflict-prone countries.

“What is wrong with sharing power? We saw how beautiful counties such as Syria and Yemen were before they plunged into conflict,” group chairperson Rahab Mwikali said in her submission.

Away from the public glare, Parliament has also been engaged in the momentous push.

Two MPs have written to the National Assembly Speaker seeking to amend the Constitution to create a rotational presidency and the position of a prime minister appointed by the president.

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Aldai MP Cornely Serem has presented a Constitutional Amendment Bill proposing to have the executive position be rotated across all communities.

Serem says the only way to ensure equity is to have every community produce someone to lead the country as opposed to only the dominant tribes having their way.

The proposal was the second in a week after that of Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny who also wrote to Speaker Justin Muturi to present a Constitution Amendment Bill 2018 to create the post of the leader of official opposition.

In his proposal, Kutuny said the premier who will have two deputies, will be appointed by the president from the party with a majority in Parliament and will be in charge of the government business in the House.

The Cherangany MP said his Bill, which also seeks to have Cabinet Secretaries come from Parliament, will not require to be subjected to a referendum.

The Thirdway Alliance party under 2017 presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot is also seeking to reduce the number of MPs to 194, down from the current 416.

The party also seeks to elevate the Senate to be an Upper House with veto powers and introduce a single seven-year term presidency.

Aukot has taken the popular initiative route and has since collected about 600,000 signatures out of the required one million support of registered voters.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Referendum Constitution

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