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Atwoli backs push for review of laws

George Kebaso and Judy Akuma @PeopleDailyke

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli yesterday waded into the rising heat on the proposed amendments to the Constitution. He suggested that President Uhuru Kenyatta be accommodated to a position in government when his second term ends.

“If we don’t amend this Constitution to accommodate all Kenyans, where will President Uhuru Kenyatta go after 2022, yet he is a young man? Ataenda kusumbua watu wengine (he will end up making others uncomfortable),” Atwoli added, without specifying what position he had in mind.

Uhuru cannot constitutionally seek another term after the end of his second one, but Atwoli, who is prone to dropping controversial one-liners, appeared to suggest the President can still play another role.

Speaking at Uhuru Park during the Labour Day celebrations yesterday – where the government announced a raise of the minimum wage for workers by five per cent (see story below) – Atwoli said there is need to revisit the Bomas Draft of 2005 in a referendum.

“As a workers’ federation, we don’t want sideshows. Let us amend the Constitution, tubadilishe katiba, tulete Bomas Draft. Kitu kinacholeta shida duniani ni mambo ya watu kuachwa nje (let’ us amend the Constitution.

Let’s revisit the Bomas Draft because the feeling of being left out of the government is a major problem),” Atwoli said. He called on Kenyans to support the amendments to the Constitution so that the country can have a law that is accommodative to all.

He said not everyone can be president, reiterating that he is on record in the past saying there was no way anyone can write off the people of Central Kenya from being in government even after 2022.

“We must amend the Constitution to accommodate Uhuru somewhere,” he said, adding, “on international issues, Raila Odinga stands out.” Raila, who joined government and trade union leaders at the venue, steered clear of the referendum debate, despite Atwoli flattering him with praises.

Atwoli said: “With Raila Odinga, Uhuru does not need any other supporter, this is a strong politician,” said Atwoli, looking at Raila. Also present was Raila co-principal in Nasa Musalia Mudavadi who was not given a chance to address the fete, with Atwoli just telling him to support the handshake deal between Uhuru and Raila.

In the recent past, the referendum debate has appeared to split Raila’s supporters with those of Deputy President William Ruto, with the latter outrightly opposed to the suggestion for change of law to accommodate a three-tier system of devolved government.

Last week at the Devolution Conference in Kakamega, Raila Odinga spelt out the proposals explaining why it was important for the country to have a three-tier system of government.

The following day at the same venue, Ruto spiced up the debate by saying it was not necessary to change the law if it would require a referendum to do so.

However, yesterday, Atwoli said the relative peace being experienced in the country stems from the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila and should be enhanced by an expanded Executive to have all Kenyans represented in government.

“When I told you about the impending handshake between the two, many of you thought I was crazy. But as you can see today, there is peace in the country,” Atwoli said. His suggestion now that Uhuru should have a role to play in a future government throws another spin that could stir fresh debate over the issue.

But in his speech, Raila steered clear of the referendum debate, instead saying Nasa had called off the boycott imposed last year on products and services from four companies the party had accused of influencing the outcome of the disputed presidential election.

Raila called on Kenyans, especially his supporters, to end resistance from using products and services from Safaricom, Bidco, Haco and Brookside Dairies.

The Nasa leader said the boycott no longer exists adding that the products and services from the four companies was to frustrate the government through economic sabotage following the outcome of the election last year.

Raila assured Kenyans that whatever differences he had with the government have been put aside and he is now working with Uhuru to ensure the country is united, hence the resistance is no longer necessary.

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