Only the county assemblies now stand in the way of constitutional change after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) endorsed the maiden stages of an attempt by lawyer Ekuru Aukot to deliver a referendum.
Thirdway Alliance Party’s Pungunza Mizigo Bill 2019 initiative is the first to get the IEBC nod, after successfully executing the herculean task of collecting more than 1.2 million signatures from registered voters.
The spotlight turns to the 47 county assemblies, where the initiative should get the support of at least 24 of them. The Bill outlines 16 proposals, including reducing the number of MPs and scrapping voter registration to allow Kenyans who attain age 18 to automatically qualify to vote.
Although President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga have on various occasions expressed their support for a referendum, there hasn’t been any frontward undertaking save for pronouncements by their allies in rallies. Coming at a time the Uhuru, Raila backed Building Bridges Initiative is collecting views on the array of institutional and constitutional changes Kenyans want, Aukot’s move carries a lot of weight. And gauging from responses by Kenyans, especially online, it appears Aukot’s initiative finds a place in the hearts of the masses.
However, we take this earliest opportunity to call for sobriety. If the process is to be seen as not merely playing into the hands of a select few who feel entitled to leadership, proponents of a referendum must set the correct tone by making it all inclusive.
It is common knowledge that politicians want more positions created in furtherance of their interests. Aukot should not be a mere agent in the thick of things. Constitutional amendments, if any, should be for the wider good of the nation. It shouldn’t be about ‘fixing’ some politicians and rewarding others with positions. The referendum should by synonymous with answers to Kenya’s most pressing challenges such as graft and the ever shambolic presidential elections.
The road to reforms has been long and thorny. More sideshows and distractions will come up. Consultations in good faith, suffice to say, will be is a good step. There must be real commitment to deliver a better tomorrow.