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It’s in Uhuru’s interest to reject murmurs over extending his term

By Kethi Kilonzo | November 4th 2018



The answer to this question is not simple. It is not a binary “yes” or “no” answer type of question. It is a compound question. The type that carries with it Kenya’s past as well as its future.

There have been proposals for the amendment of the 2010 Constitution to create the office of prime minister. Others propose abolition of Senate, reduction of the numbers of counties and constituencies and scraping of positions of women representatives.

The proposal to increase the presidential term limits is one of many for the amendment of the 2010 Constitution.

A constitution should not be built around individuals; instead, it should secure long term community of interests of a country.

Should the constitutional amendments brigade gain traction and come to fruition, the decision on what changes should be put to vote at a referendum should be made by elected representatives at the county assemblies level and by Parliament. 

Political campaigns

Alternatively, it should be moved through a popular initiative that requires the support of at least one million registered voters. Such a decision should not be left in the hands of the few.

Changing the presidential term limits in the 2010 constitution will require a referendum. Like 2005 and 2010, the referendum will be preceded by nation-wide political campaigns.

More likely than not, the President will be drawn into the debate, whether willingly or unwittingly. 

Every President in his final term stands the risk of becoming a lame duck.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has so far managed to prevent this by extending a hand to his past and present political opponents.

The Big Four Agenda and his breathing of new life into the anti-corruption crusade has also helped to keep him in the news cycle as the constant subject of national discussion. 

The slightest hint of a referendum to allow him to run for a third term is likely to alienate his new political friends as well as his Deputy.

It is also likely to cloud his vision and agenda as the country will be divided into those who are for and against his continuing in office.

In my opinion, it is in the President’s interest not only to reject the idea in public, but also to privately persuade those who are proposing it to stop doing so. 

President Kenyatta’s father, Kenya’s first president, died in office.

Though President Kibaki handed over power peacefully, and expressed no interest in an additional term, the 2007/08 post-election violence will always remain a dent in his legacy.

President Moi, who coined himself the “professor of politics”, retained a grip on power for over two decades by employing various tools, among them running for and securing additional time in office after the Constitution was changed to limit the presidential terms to two.

However, when the time came for President Moi to leave office he did so peacefully. This will always remain his enduring legacy. However, when the time came for President Moi to leave office he did so peacefully. 

This will always remain his enduring legacy. 

It is said that you cannot stop an idea whose time has come. One day this country may very well go to a referendum to increase or decrease the term of office of the President.  It may go to a referendum to make the presidency rotational amongst the tribes of Kenya.

Even if successful, a referendum and constitutional amendment to increase President Kenyatta’s time in office will come at a cost to his legacy, unless it is driven and delivered by a cross-cutting overwhelming majority of Kenyans. 

-The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

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