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CORD principals Kalonzo Musyoka (left), Raila Odinga (centre) and Moses Wetang’ula during the Saba Saba rally at
Uhuru Park on Monday. [Photo: BEVERLYNE MUSILI/STANDARD]
Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) leaders have laid the road map through which 13 resolutions, which they unveiled during the Saba Saba rally at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, will be implemented.

CORD has disclosed that its first move will be to ensure that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is disbanded and will not be allowed to handle the proposed referendum that was part of the resolutions.

At the same time, CORD is upbeat that the referendum push will sail through despite hurdles standing in the way.

Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o, a key ally of CORD leader Raila Odinga, said they will push to have an international body appointed by the United Nations to conduct the referendum in the event a new electoral body will not have been constituted.

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He said IEBC lacks the moral standing to conduct an election as its top officials are a subject of the referendum.

“IEBC has the mandate to organise or supervise elections. They cannot, as presently constituted, have the moral mandate to organise a referendum which they are the subject of,” Prof Nyong’o said.

Disband IEBC

But CORD’s numerical disadvantage in both the Senate and the National Assembly stands in its way in the push to disband IEBC and hold a referendum.

A petition to disband IEBC filed by CORD political activist Wafula Buke is already at committee stage in the National Assembly. The petitioner wants the nine IEBC commissioners hounded out of office for gross mismanagement of the last General Election. 

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In CORD’s new push, Parliament will have to pass the required budget to finance the referendum. The House will also be required to approve the referendum questions before Kenyans take a vote.

Political pundits believe CORD faces an uphill task in marshalling the requisite numbers to push through the referendum agenda in Parliament on its key questions that it has outlined.

The ruling Jubilee alliance enjoys numerical strength in both Houses and it will be a major test for the Opposition coalition to get the required numbers to enable Parliament approve the budget to facilitate the exercise.

The August 4, 2010, referendum on the Constitution cost the country Sh10 billion. The US met a substantial part of the budget. And the 2005 referendum, in which the question of approving the Constitution was defeated, cost slightly over Sh13 billion.

Jubilee has 216 members in the National Assembly compared to CORD’s 129. In the Senate, CORD has 28 senators and Jubilee 39, posing a huge task of getting approval for the referendum as proposed by the Opposition.

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It is on the basis of the fear of the tyranny of numbers that the Opposition has adopted the popular initiative for a referendum to amend the Constitution as opposed to a direct constitutional amendment through the National Assembly, which requires a two-thirds majority.

An amendment to the Constitution through a referendum requires at least one million signatures from registered voters.

While CORD faces no challenge in collecting the requisite one million signatures needed to initiate the referendum process, a huge task lies ahead for the coalition because verification of the signatures to ascertain whether those who signed up are genuine registered voters is the responsibility of IEBC. At one point, CORD had discredited the voter register as doctored.

And if the country decides to have a referendum under an international agency as proposed by CORD, then it means that Parliament will be required to provide necessary legal backing as the necessary instrument; currently, the law allows only IEBC to conduct and supervise elections in the country.

But CORD plans to ride on the dissatisfaction among Kenyans over the raging national problems and convince members from the Jubilee side to see that the country is experiencing turbulent times whose solution requires the participation of all Kenyans.

“It is a fact that the country is facing critical national challenges, which the Jubilee government cannot manage alone. Our colleagues from the other side share with us the concern that the Government is unable to solve them,” Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati said.

He exuded confidence that CORD would succeed in the push for a referendum because it was the only way to liberate the country from the high cost of living, insecurity, tribalism, corruption and ethnicisation in Government appointments.

Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’ said CORD had the support of Kenyans and that the referendum would sail through once the Opposition launched civic education across the country through its yet-to-be-unveiled referendum committee that will drive the agenda.

“We are aware of the work ahead of us. But we are not scared because we know what we are doing is what every Kenyan wants – security, affordable cost of living and employment. We will talk to all across the board,” he said.

Popular initiative

Through the popular initiative, CORD wants to bank on its numerical superiority in counties as the coalition controls 24 of the devolved units as opposed to Jubilee’s 23.

According to Article 256 of the Constitution, if IEBC is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements of the Constitution, the commission shall submit the draft Bill to each of the 47 county assemblies for consideration and approval before being presented to Parliament.

Political analyst Barrack Muluka dismissed CORD’s call for a national referendum, saying the push was likely to be scuttled due to luck of funds.

“The call for a national referendum is dead on arrival. You can’t do a referendum without having the necessary budgetary support and that will require the role of Parliament,” Mr Muluka said.

He said CORD’s agenda was impractical given that much of the work ahead requires the support of the Jubilee government.

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CORD National Referendum Saba Saba rally
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