It is nine years since the new Constitution was promulgated and Thirdway Alliance Kenya has caught the country’s major parties napping with his Punguza Mizigo referendum bill.
The debate about changing the Constitution has been on and off since the advent of the devolution era.
But with 2022 General Election just around the corner, the referendum debate has gained a new momentum with Dr Ekuru Aukot’s initiative being first to achieve the constitutional threshold after collecting over one million signatures from Kenyan voter.
DrAukot’s party quietly collected signatures from 1.2 million registered voters to push for an improvement of the 2010 Constitution.
On July 18, 2019, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati notified the public that that Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo had met the requisite threshold as required by the Constitution.
When the electoral commission chairman made the announcement, he said the Bill would be submitted to the 47 county assemblies within three months for debate and approval.
For the National Assembly and Senate to either approve or reject the bill, it must be approved within three months by at least 24 county assemblies.
Under the Punguza Mizigo (constitutional amendment) initiative, Dr Aukot wants the number of MPs cut from 416 at the moment to 147.
Dr Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance also wants the position for deputy governors and women representative to be abolished to reduce the cost of running Parliament to Sh5 billion annually down from Sh36.8 billion.
The Punguza Mizigo initiative also seeks to increase equitable shareable revenue of counties from 15 to 35 percent of last audited accounts approved by Parliament.
Mr Aukot also proposes
a one-off seven-year presidential term and for abolishment of nominations to both the county assemblies and Senate.
In light of ongoing supremacy battles between the National Assembly and Senate, Punguza Mizigo also wants the Senate to become the Upper House of Parliament with veto powers over the decisions of made by the National Assembly.
Punguza Mizigo initiative is not the only push for a referendum. Another group, the Building Bridges Initiative which is a creation of the President Uhuru Kenyatta/Raila Odinga handshake is also seeking views from Kenyans for constitutional changes.
The IEBC estimates that a referendum will cost at least Sh12 billion.
But the Punguza Mizigo initiative has hit a snag after petitions were filled in the High Court to stop debates.
Kenya’s big parties have given Dr Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo Bill a wide berth, with Orange Democratic Movement labelling Punguza Mizigo referendum as problematic.
ODM said the referendum bill failed to address the structure of government and public debt. The opposition party wants an expanded Executive with the position of a prime minister.
President Kenyatta and his foe-turned-friend Raila have hinted at an expanded Executive to accommodate all communities. Mr Kenyatta has railed against the winner-takes-all political system.
Reacting to Dr Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo referendum bill, Wiper leader said Thirdway Alliance Kenya proposals are meant to hoodwink Kenyans.
Instead, Mr Musyoka accused the Building Bridges Initiative of working at a snail’s pace and gave the team 60-day ultimatum to present their proposals.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was Ms Anne Kiguta’s first guest on Punchline, dismissed the call for a referendum, saying most of the constitutional changes proposed can be achieved through amendments.
DP Ruto said opposition leaders should have official positions in Parliament with the attendant perks so that they can play their roles within a constitutional framework.
Now Dr Aukot accuses Kenya’s main parties of ganging up and sponsoring petition against his Punguza Mizigo referendum bill.
“The political hunters and gatherers are now working with a wolf in the courts of law to frustrate our initiative. The wolf in the corridors of justice is holding brief for the greedy political class and using and abusing his authority to drive political agenda in the court of law,” said Mr Aukot on July 31.
With his Punguza Mizigo initiative facing stiff opposition from the main parties, what will the former presidential aspirant Dr Aukot do? Find out tonight on Punchline with Anne Kiguta.