President Uhuru Kenyatta Tuesday made a strong case for a referendum to approve changes to the Constitution before the 2022 General Elections.
Uhuru said the changes would entrench political inclusion, equity in the distribution of opportunities and resources and end violence every electoral cycle.
The President said it would be disastrous to face another election without reforms and warned against “constitutional rigidity”. He asked Kenyan not to shy away from making bold decisions.
“It would, indeed, be a tragedy if, come subsequent elections, we will not have resolved this dilemma. And that is why I urge the country to ponder a constitutional consensus around a three-pronged national question,” Uhuru said during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Gusii Stadium in Kisii.
The President said the 2010 Constitution entrenched what he termed as a zero-sum game in which the winner takes it all and the loser goes home with nothing. This, he said, has been a recipe for chaos every election cycle.
“Truly, this is not what the constitutionalists at Independence wanted for us. And if we do not change it now, when we have a constitutional moment, this problem will plague our country for years on end,” Uhuru warned.
He said key constitutional amendments would be the best remedy to negative politics which he said begun to dominate the national arena after the re-introduction of political pluralism in 1992.
“Instead of a zero-sum constitutional equation, can we adopt a positive-sum equation? Can we adopt a constitutional arrangement that takes care of our diversity as a people?” he asked.
The President appeared to set the stage for the release of the Building Bridges Initiative report expected to recommend the expansion of the Executive.
In a swipe at his deputy William Ruto, Uhuru said his proposition should not be given a narrow interpretation of creating positions for individuals.
“And on this, we should not give my suggestion the parochial interpretation of creating positions for individuals,” he emphasised.
“I am only urging for a constitutional consensus that accommodates all communities in an election. A consensus that makes it possible for any Kenyan to lead this country, working hand in hand with his or her brothers and sisters from across the nation.”
Ruto has been on back-to-back campaigns, attacking the BBI process as work of “dynasties” out to create and preserve top sate jobs for the political elite at the expense of “hustlers”.
“Do you want us to talk about a prime minister or about hustlers?”Ruto asked during a campaign rally in Embu on Sunday.
“We want to change our leadership approach to be heavy on the lower part of the wealth pyramid.”
On Tuesday, Ruto who also spoke at Gusii stadium urged for broad-based dialogue on the BBI to bring everybody on board.
“My friend opposition leader Raila Odinga has told us about the reggae, which is fine, but I guess we will have a robust national conversation that will bring everybody on board,” he said.
Raila had indicated that the BBI team is ready to resume and was waiting for the President’s word.
“The halftime is over and the players have had a massage and the reggae is ready to start. It is you the President who will show us where to go from here,” Raila said.
The President continued to read from the same script as Raila over the push to amend the Constitution.
Uhuru regretted that the political practice in Kenya has always been such that resources and opportunity go to those occupying positions of power.
This, he said, has over time made elections a life and death affair.
“But it is possible for us to entrench the principle of equity in the distribution of resources and opportunities in the Constitution. This way, the Constitution will guarantee that no one is excluded,” he argued.
The President said violence every electoral cycle makes the economy to shut for at least two years in every five years.
“One year before every election, the economy shuts down as it anticipates the turns and twists of the election. And one year after the election, the economy is still on a go-slow as markets wrap themselves around the emerging political constellations,” the President said.
He also dissuaded politicians from “premature campaigns and endless electioneering”, which he said is creating anxiety.
“Truly, this is not what the constitutionalists at Independence wanted for us,” he said.
“And as your 4th President, I need to remind you that, we will have a 5th, 6th and even 10th President. But we have only one Kenya. This is all we have and we must protect it at all costs.”
Uhuru said even Kenya’s Founding Fathers had to make a delicate balancing act to satisfy all the 42 ethnic communities that make the nation.
“They knew that summoning the consciousness of 42 nations to a singular purpose under the nation-state would take constant negotiations and re-negotiation,” he stated.
Uhuru said Kenya should adopt the philosophy of constitutional consensus that guided Independence constitutionalists who went through as many as four constitutions before landing on a workable document.
Quoting former Vice-President Joseph Murumbi, Uhuru said, “there is nothing wrong with Kenya that cannot be fixed by what is right with Kenya.”
“If the Littleton Constitution of 1954 was wrong, it was made right by the Lennox Boyd Constitution of 1958. When this constitution outlived its consensus, the Ian McLeod Constitution of 1960, kicked in,” he said.
He added, “And the search for a common ground continued until the Independence Constitution was adopted. But even then, this Constitution was adopted as a cease-fire document to facilitate Independence.”
After Independence, the Lancaster consensus was replaced by a new consensus, the President said.