President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have rallied voters to append their signatures in support of the proposed constitutional changes.
Uhuru said were it not for the March 9, 2018 Handshake, the country would have been brought to its knees following the disputed 2017 elections that pitted him against Raila.
He rallied Kenyans to “overwhelmingly support the amendment Bill” so as to secure the country from the vicious cycle of electoral violence.
Raila dismissed claims that the document was recreating an imperial presidency as well as trying to erode the independence of the Judiciary. He labelled opponents of the process as prophets of doom.
He called on voters to turn out in large numbers to endorse the document and bring to an end “the difficult days of hatred and division” that the country has endured in the past.
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Yesterday, the Handshake partners launched the signature collection in support of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, with some amendments on the initial proposals. They also disclosed how they reached out to some stakeholders to thaw opposition against the planned referendum.
President Kenyatta revealed his meeting with some religious leaders that resulted in the inclusion of “centrality of God in Kenya” in the preamble.
In the final document, the Senate has been handed enhanced mandate, with the contested proposal to establish the Kenya Police Council being dropped.
“I am confident that this process has been widely consultative and has captured the best of our ideas and ideals. And this is not the end of the process as Kenyans will continue to express themselves and eventually make a choice on the fate of this referendum Bill,” said Uhuru.
“We are once again taking these proposals to you, Kenyans, requesting you to confirm and endorse your own proposals.”
The president highlighted the clause seeking to increase revenue allocation to the counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent as well as the establishment of a Ward Development Fund. He described the new fund to be managed by Members of County Assembly as a game-changer in taking development to the grassroots.
“And not only that – the Bill proposes a strengthened Senate that is able to oversight the counties more robustly. It also requires county assemblies and the Senate to ensure greater accountability of the increased funds going to the counties,” he said.
President Kenyatta cited the clause proposing a man and a woman elected as a senator for each of the 47 counties as a major gain in addressing gender parity and representation.
He said since women will make up 50 per cent of the Senate, they will have a say in determining how the proposed 35 per cent of national revenue to the counties are shared.
The president said the additional seats for women in the Senate were on top of affirmative orientation in appointive positions.
He revealed that intelligence by State agencies had indicated that the country was on the verge of plunging into chaos and destruction after the disputed polls.
“I am telling you this honestly as your president who consumes first-hand information only available to the Head of State. If there had been no Handshake, this country would have been brought to its knees by very dangerous forces – the reckless aggressiveness of some, and the triumphant, chest-thumping and stone-walling by others,” said Uhuru.
He said the need to change the Constitution has been driven by the need to end the threat of violence in every general election due to the feeling of skewed allocation of resources.
“It has been evident in the never-ending threat of post-election violence; in the growing feelings that its design lacks inclusivity; and that it promotes unfair and skewed representation and unfair distribution of national resources,” he added.
Raila said some of them have been victims of the imperial presidency, therefore, they cannot be part of its creation.
He said Parliament will have a major role in the appointment of the prime minister, implying that the president will not have a sweeping role in the process.
“You are all very intelligent people, read through those lines and tell us where we’re creating an imperial presidency,” he said.
The former premier said having ministers in Parliament will facilitate MPs in discharging their oversight role, since they will be able to respond to questions on the floor of the House.
He defended the proposal to have the president appoint Judiciary Ombudsman, saying an independent person to oversight the arm of government was important.
“They are saying we are trying to erode the independence of the Judiciary. The Judiciary will remain independent but must be over-sighted. What do you expect to happen if the Ombudsman is appointed by the Chief Justice who is also the president of the Judiciary,” posed Raila.
He explained that there would be a selection panel that will pick three names before submitting them to the president, who will then be required to submit a name to Parliament for vetting.
“The Ombudsman will be interviewed by a panel... How does that erode the independence of the Judiciary,” he posed.
Raila described the launch of the signature collection as the beginning of a new journey in realising the dream of a united country.
“We are starting a new journey today, and we invite every Kenyan to walk with us because nothing can stop us from realising the Kenyan dream,” he said.
“We have trekked through the difficult days of hatred and division; we have gone through the wilderness of anger and marginalisation; we can see the promised land ahead. But the promised land will never come to us, we have to go to it.”