George Kebaso @Morarak
The prospect of an impending referendum before the 2022 election, with proposals to review the current Constitution to change the governance structure, moved a notch higher as Opposition leader Raila Odinga made it the key point in his address to the devolution conference yesterday.
Raila added his voice to the subject proposing major changes to the country’s system of governance with a proposal for a three-tier system of governance that seeks to retain the 47 counties and the National government.
He said this would provide a lasting solution to problems caused by the sizes and population of the devolved units. His proposal is likely to ignite more debate on the topic, coming after Deputy President William Ruto insisted there was no need to change the Constitution to create positions for some unnamed individuals.
Speaking at a public forum recently, Ruto argued that the country is already experiencing immense social, economic and political development due to devolution, and there was no need of interrupting that situation.
The DP, who is expected to address the conference delegates this morning will apparently have the governors keen to hear if he will respond to the proposal by Raila on the critical issue that is largely anchored on devolution. “There is no urgent need to review the constitution to satisfy a few individuals,” Ruto had said.
But yesterday Raila said, in his address during the second day of the conference in Kakamega, that his proposal is aimed at ushering in a three-tier structure that borrows a lot from the 2005 Bomas Draft.
He defended the proposal to review the law, noting the creation of such a system of governance is anchored in the fact that devolved units that are big in size and population are economically unviable.
He said it was high time the country to looked at how to recover the original spirit of devolution as captured in the 2005 Draft Constitution.
“My proposal is that we adopt a three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional governments and retains the National Government and with a very clear formula for revenue sharing,” he said.
Raila further advocated for the introduction of 14 regional blocks: “We need to bite the bullet and re-visit the structure of devolution. The Bomas Draft constitution divided Kenya into 14 regions, each made up of several districts or counties.
The intent was to create units with the size and population that can make them economically viable. It is time to look at how to recover this original spirit.”
Speaking a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the conference via a telecast address on Tuesday, Raila was there courtesy of his new-found status of cooperation with the government, after he and the President mended frosty relations in March.
Raila has been recognised as one of the key proponents of devolution and is credited with having vouched for the system as it exists in the 2010 Constitution. The intention of the Bomas Draft, Raila said, was to create units with the size and population to make them economically viable.
He noted that while several counties had come together to form economic blocs, the current structure of devolution needed to be revised to ensure the units have sustainable development. He highlighted tangible development brought about by devolution in counties such as Makueni, Wajir, Kisumu and Kirinyaga.
His proposal is likely to add spark to the budding debate on the need for a referendum to allow for a constitutional vote. A number of Kenyan leaders, including the clergy, have been divided over the issue.
Other Jubilee Party leaders who have openly opposed any changes to the Constitution include Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.
However, yesterday, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior welcomed the proposal by Raila. He told People Daily that any legislative changes to the constitution must be done between now and 2020 so that they don’t interfere with parliamentary processes.
Kilonzo said the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila should have provided a formula and timelines for constitutional review that should either be through public vote or Parliament. “The succession race for 2022 will be too epic that we need this to be done soon.
We don’t want a situation where campaigns for various political seats in the forthcoming election interfere with parliamentary processes,” he said.
Mutula expressed hope that President Uhuru will take advantage of next Tuesday’s State of the Nation address to provide a date and formula for voting for the impending legislative changes.