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We should seize Covid moment to change the law, says president

By Jacob Ng’etich | August 27th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his Eleventh address to the Nation on the Coronavirus pandemic containment measures from State House yesterday. [PSCU]

A day before the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday signalled the inevitability of constitutional change in the coming days.

And with indications that the country is gearing up for full reopening of all sectors, a referendum could be in the offing.

While addressing the nation, President Kenyatta offered yet another justification for changing the supreme law, saying its very drafters had noted that it was “work in progress”.

The day before this and in a television interview, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed similar views, saying a referendum was inevitable.

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Uhuru said in the past, all the country’s constitutions have been cease-fire documents, agreements created to dodge confrontation and civil conflict and that was the reason it represented a constant argument between the past and the present.

“Ten years later, the moment to improve on it is – now.  And as I said in my Madaraka Day Speech, we must not succumb to the paralysis of constitutional rigidity. We must treat a Constitution as a living document that must constantly adjust to our emerging realities,” said President Kenyatta.

He said the Constitution had been hailed, the world-over, as one of the most progressive in the world. And this is because it embodied what a social contract between people of different origins and their government should be.

However, it also reminded the country that if the past is constantly at war with the present, then there is a need to review it.

The president said instead of a cease-fire document that enforces a zero-sum game in which the winner takes it all, the moment called the country to create a constitutional order that will long endure.

“Ten years after our progressive constitution, the moment calls us to do better. And on this, I want to emphasise that we must not go for the populist path. Let us choose the bold path; that path that will assure Kenyans of sustained peace and security, and shared economic prosperity,” said Uhuru.

On March 9, 2018, President Kenyatta and Raila founded the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and before the Covid-19 explosion, the task force was in the process of completing the validation report that had suggested a constitutional referendum.

Raila has insisted previously that there will be a referendum before the 2022 General Election that will, among other things, change the winner-takes-all notion. The BBI team is yet to hand over its final report, which could form the basis of the possible change of the supreme law.

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have in the past opposed any changes to the Constitution, saying those pushing for the review should first ensure its full implementation. The team has said changing the Constitution was all a ploy to appease Raila.

Changes in parliament

In June, Uhuru kicked out Ruto allies from parliamentary leadership in what was seen as preparing ground for a smooth sail of the BBI report in the National Assembly and Senate.

During the purge, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali were replaced with Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya and Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe, respectively.

Also kicked out of a critical position was Justice and Legal Affairs Chairman William Cheptumo alongside Senate leadership, including former Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Majority Whip Susan Kihika.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi said the leaders’ removal was because they were not trusted to oversee the operations of Parliament and midwife the BBI when it gets into the august House.

Referendum Constitution Uhuru Kenyatta
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