Monday, 26 August 2013

Debate on referendum rages as more leaders call for caution

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA Former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi (left) and former Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa pay their respects at the grave of former Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa in Kitale on August 23, 2013 on the 10th anniversary of his death.
More than 30 MPs on Saturday joined Deputy President William Ruto in criticising those calling for a referendum.
The MPs – from both Senate and National Assembly – said those calling for referendum had ulterior motives.
The rebuke came moments after UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi and his New Ford-Kenya counterpart Eugene Wamalwa waded into the debate, also questioning the timing and motives of those spearheading calls for the vote.
Speaking in Kitale on Friday at a memorial service for former Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa, the two leaders, who have kept a low profile since March 4, said the referendum would be costly especially coming just months after a very expensive General Election.
“The issues being talked about may be relevant, but who will conduct the election when the electoral commission’s credibility is in doubt with many cases in court? Leaders must be careful when pushing for this agenda,” Mr Mudavadi said.
Mr Wamalwa said it was premature for the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) leaders to call for a referendum when the Constitution had not been fully implemented.
And in Meru, MPs mainly from the Jubilee Alliance and a few Cord members claimed there were plans to destabilise the government in its formative stages.
They also defended the government for having increased allocations to the county governments from 32.6 per cent to 40 per cent of national revenue.
“The government on its own gave counties 32.6 per cent of national revenue, but now it has increased that to 40 per cent. Did we have a referendum? Some of these people want to get power through the back door,” Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi said.
Tigania East MP Mpuri Apuri said that although he was in Cord, he was not supporting his leader Raila Odinga on the referendum.
He told Mr Odinga to allow the government to deliver on its election pledges.
Mr Ruto said the fact that the government had agreed to increase allocations to the counties was proof enough that Jubilee was committed to devolution.
“Some people want another contest with us, and they are looking at a cheap avenue for that. But even if we have 100 contests, we will defeat them,” Mr Ruto said.
Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi said a majority of Kenyans were not prepared for a referendum and that what they wanted was service delivery.
However, Trans Nzoia Senator Henry ole Ndiema (Ford-Kenya) said the call for a referendum has been sparked by the superiority battle between the Senate and the National Assembly.
“In some countries, the Senate makes changes to laws made by the National Assembly, but in our country it is vice-versa. This may necessitate a referendum if we fail to reach a consensus,” said Mr Ndiema.
Political strategist Peter Kagwanja said there is no democracy in the world where the National Assembly is superior to the Senate.
He added that the government had no choice but to implement devolution or risk making it the main issue in campaigns for the next election.
Separately, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) said it is not opposed to amending the Constitution but will only support a referendum if it is people driven.
“This Constitution is not a property of Cord and Jubilee but of all Kenyans. It is, therefore, wrong for the politicians allied to the two alliances to use it as their battleground to settle their scores,” General Secretary Peter Karanja said moments after closing NCCK centenary conference at Kabarak University in Nakuru on Friday.
In Mombasa, renowned scholar, Prof Ali Mazrui, expressed reservations over the referendum calls, saying it was “too early” to start mutilating the three-year-old charter.
Prof Mazrui said the Constitution should be given time to mature and grow.
“We are coming from a unitary system which had no place for small tribes like us to have influence in Nairobi where power lay in the hands of a few individuals with names, history and wealth,” he said.
But Cord, the council of governors and civil society have vowed to push on with the calls for a referendum.
Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto told the BBC interactive programme Sema Kenya at the Multimedia University on Friday that he would start collecting six million signatures in September in support of the referendum.
The aim, he said, was to strengthen the Senate, increase allocations to counties to more than 40 per cent of the national revenue and to allow counties to handle things like building schools and giving bursaries to needy students. He said counties should also be allowed to handle rural electrification and roads.
Civil society activist Okiya Omtatah said he had already collected 300,000 in support of the referendum and that he targets two million.
Mr Ruto and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar dismissed claims that the time was not ripe for a referendum, saying it should even have been held a day after the March 4 elections to protect devolution.
“The referendum is not about Cord, Jubilee or Transition Authority but to protect devolution. Devolution is not CDF, Uwezo Fund or being told to use that money first or to keep quiet,” Mr Ruto said.
Mr Omar added: “The Senate has been weakened and is now toothless. We need to go backwards so that we can move forward. We want counties to be centres of development and not just human resource bureaux.”
Three constitutional offices also supported calls for more money to be allocated to counties but said the time was not ripe for a referendum.
The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), the Transition Authority (TA) and the Controller of Budget said governors and others pushing for a referendum should first exhaust other mechanisms to improve the allocations.
“Yes, more money should be given to counties. We support the referendum, but this is not the right time,” TA chairman Kinuthia wa Mwangi said.
Mr Wa Mwangi and Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo said the counties should first use the money allocated to them, then carry out costing to determine the amount of money they require.
Mr Wa Mwangi said counties should be given a year to operate and “then check what they will be allocated in next year’s budget”.
But a member of the Commission on Revenue Allocation Amina Ahmed said the referendum should be held if a majority of Kenyans were for it. The commissioner said CRA had allocated Sh231 billion to the counties before it was trimmed to Sh210 billion. She said the 34 per cent allocations were as per 2010/2011 audited accounts of the national revenue, adding that the law should allow the latest Auditor-General findings to be used in determining funds to go to the devolved units.
In yet another development, Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa said he would push for a plebiscite unless the government disbursed enough money to help the largely semi-arid county roll out its projects.
He called on the public not to take the call for a referendum as aimed at sabotaging the Jubilee government and urged senators, MPs, and County Assemblies to support them.
Speaking at Marimanti market, Mr Ragwa said he was ready to lead a rebellion against the government if the move would benefit his county.

No comments:

Post a Comment