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Ruto: Why I will vote against the Proposed Constitution

By | April 18th 2010

By Jibril Adan

Agriculture Minister William Ruto has for the first time spoken at length on why he rejects the Proposed Constitution.

In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, the Eldoret North MP said the Proposed Constitution, if passed without amendments, would breed more inequalities instead of becoming a catalyst for prosperity.

The minister, who is spearheading opposition to the draft, said there are faults in the draft that should be addressed to avoid a divisive referendum.

He said both sides of the divide admit there is "need to amend the draft".

"What we have differed on is when the amendments should be done. While the ‘No’ side wants the amendments done before the referendum, the ‘Yes’ side says the changes should wait until after the draft is passed," he said.

Difficult to amend

He, however, faulted the suggestion by the ‘Yes’ proponents that changes should wait until the new law comes into force.

He said the procedure to amend the law in future would equally be hard.

Ruto pointed out that if the draft passes, the provision on devolution he describes as "inadequate and a potential source of inequality and marginalisation of sections of Kenyans" will require a referendum to amend.

"Parliament will not be able to make changes on its own on some sections once the draft passes," he said.

He described the devolution structure provided in the draft as flawed. "When we agreed on the pure presidential system of government at Naivasha, we wanted it to go hand in hand with strong regional governments that would counter-balance powers of the presidency," he said.

At the PSC retreat in Naivasha, it was Ruto who proposed the presidential system of government together with regional governments, but it later proved difficult to entrench regional governments in the draft.

The first draft that the Committee of Experts (CoE) came up with provided regional governments, but the experts removed the provision. "The draft the CoE handed to us when we first went to Naivasha did not have regional governments. CoE actually sent an explanation with the draft, saying they had thrown out the section following views from members of the public," said the minister.

The devolved units have been reduced to the county level. But Ruto says the county governments would not play any meaningful role in enabling the public to have a say in national decision-making.

The counties as formulated are too weak to counter the powers of the presidency, he said.

"You do not expect councillors to stand up to a president," he added.

At the same time Ruto said the counties would be a source of inequality.

He pointed out that since the counties would be based on the original district boundaries, some regions would find themselves at a disadvantage.

"The old Kiambu District, which has a population of more than one million will be one county and it will cover 10 constituencies. Others like Tharaka will cover only two constituencies," he said.

Other examples he gave include Meru that will cover seven constituencies.

Equitable representation

Kakamega County will also bring together nine constituencies while neighbouring districts in Western have an average of four. Kisii County will have seven constituencies while Nyamira will have three.

A senator will represent each of the counties and the minister argued some counties could end up having populations that run close to a million.

During the Parliamentary Select Committee retreat and the caucus for MPs at Kabete to discuss the draft, there were attempts to increase the number of counties but these attempts failed.

Another reason he cited for opposing the draft is the provision on representation that sets the minimum number of people an area should have to qualify to be a constituency.

The Proposed Constitution says there must be at least 40,000 people residing in an area before it can be considered to be a constituency.

The Agriculture minister says he fears marginalised and sparsely populated areas would be affected and the provision could lead to the scrapping of existing constituencies that fall short of the population requirement.

"Constituencies that risk scrapping on the basis of the formula provided by the draft will be between 26 and 46 mainly in sparsely populated areas in North Eastern Province, Upper Eastern and parts of North Rift," he said.

He added: "We must not pass any constitution that would further marginalise communities that have for decades been complaining of being sidelined."

On the issue of land, Ruto said the provision that gives Parliament mandate to set the minimum and maximum acreage of land private citizens can hold could be another source of friction.

Land ownership

"This means that if Parliament says the minimum acreage is 0.5 acres, poor people who own smaller pieces will never own them since the law will not recognise any land smaller than the prescribed minimum," he said.

He questioned the rationale of setting maximum acreages, saying the provision is contrary to Vision 2030 under which investments are supposed to be promoted and the country puts all measures in place to produce sufficient food.

"The same clause on minimum and maximum land ownership was one of the biggest reasons the 2005 draft was rejected," he said.

He said there is danger of re-enactment of ‘Mugabe- style land seizures’ in Kenya if the provisions on land are not well thought out.

The Church, he said, is a big section of society that cannot be dismissed.



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