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Politicans clamour to change Kenya constitution gathers pace

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The clamour to change Kenya’s constitution ahead of the 2022 general election is gathering pace as both leaders, the church and citizens dig in.

The proposed changes include the introduction of the position of prime minister and his deputies, reduction or increase in the number of legislators and creation of more constituencies.

At least two petitions have been presented to parliament by ordinary citizens and MPs in bid for the change.

The latest petition in the National Assembly is from Ezekiel Njeru, a citizen.

The petition seeks to increase the number of constituencies from 290 to 300, wants MPs’ term increased from the current five to six years, senators tenure from five to seven years while the president to serve four years from the current five.

Before that, Tiaty MP Kassait Kamket drafted a bill seeking to change the constitution, which was promulgated in 2010, to establish a single seven-year ceremonial presidency and introduction of an executive Prime Minister’s post.

Church leaders, led by the Catholic Church and the National Council of Churches of Kenya, have also called for expansion of the executive.

Political leaders from both the ruling party Jubilee and opposition have taken positions on the matter, with the former opposing and the latter supporting some of the proposed amendments.

Jubilee leaders have said they would not allow any changes to the constitution, especially those touching on the executive.

Deputy President William Ruto, who is leading the Jubilee Party team, opposed to the changes, accuseing those pushing for the reforms selfish as they want more positions for themselves.

"We will not burden citizens with more positions in the constitution.

"What is there is good," he said.

Jubilee leaders further believe that the clamor for the changes would slow down development and thus taint President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy.

"We will not start campaigns just few months after the elections.

"Those seeking to change the law are ill-timed," said Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju on Wednesday.

But opposition MPs see the changes to the constitution, especially on the executive, as a way to enhance inclusivity and unity in the country.

They further said the changes would ensure opposition leaders have a role to play after elections.

Minority Leader in the National Assembly John Mbadi noted recently that his party ODM would push for a parliamentary system because a presidential one is not good for democracy.

The current clamor opens a new battle between politicians, as both sides prosecute the issue in public.

A majority of citizens have similarly taken stand for or against the proposals based on their party affiliations especially on the changes to executive.

But many are supporting the reduction in the number of MPs, noting it is too high.

"I support the scrapping of the woman representative position because the MPs are an additional burden to the public. So far, the holders of the position have not proved its worth," Charles Ngige, a project coordinator at a non-state organization, said Thursday.

Ngige, who supports Ruto and Kenyatta, however opposed the changes on the presidency, noting they would expand the structure of the executive creating unnecessary positions.

But Simon Odhiambo, a welder in Nairobi, said the current structure isolates several communities from leadership leading to disharmony.

"The reasons our elections are so competitive is because positions go to few people isolating the rest. We should change this," he said, adding he supports reduction of the number of legislators.

On social media the discourse is gaining momentum, with critics tearing into some of the proposed changes.

"No one is going to take education seriously in Kenya when half of the MPs and MCAs are functioning illiterates. Whoever wants to remove the clause that MPs must have Form Four education does not have good intentions," said Hassan Mohamed on Twitter.

Analysts, however, noted both sides are not genuine in their opposition against or support for the changes.

"Ruto supporters see it as a move to dim his presidency in case he wins the 2022 general elections since he is the heir apparent," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer and political analyst.

Wandera, on the other hand, said opposition MPs want to expand the executive to ensure their leaders get positions and play a role in country’s leadership.

"The problem is that politicians are short-sighted. When in power, they oppose meaningful changes believing they would stay there forever," he said.

"On the other hand, those in opposition push for changes because they are not in power.

"Kenya needs a people driven process," Wandera added.



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