RAILA ISOLATED OVER PUSH FOR REFERENDUM

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is increasingly getting isolated by his ODM party and CORD coalition members who are opposed to his calls for the referendum.

A group of MPs and Senators from Nyanza Western, Nairobi and Eastern are quietly opposed to their leader’s decision to rally support for a referendum which they believe is premature.

The leaders are later this week planning to hold a press conference to denounce the referendum calls which have seen Jubilee Senators withdraw on allegations that CORD was hijacking the referendum proposal.

“What is important now for our supporters? Is it a referendum or food on the table? We need to focus on things that will improve the quality of life for our people and put food on the table instead of talking about the referendum,” said several ODM MPs who declined to be identified as they did not want to be seen to be directly criticizing Raila.

Raila has been pushing for a referendum to amend the constitution to strengthen devolution by placing a ceiling of 40 percent financial transfer from the central to the devolved government.

Some governors also led by Bomet’s Isaac Rutto are also pushing for the same by asking for the amendment of Article 203 (2) that says “for every financial year the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall be not less than fifteen per cent of all revenue collected by the national government”. The County chiefs want this minimum threshold raised to forty per cent so that they can “ realise the devolution dream of Kenyans”.

But some CORD Alliance MPs and Governors have broken ranks with their leader and decided that they will openly oppose the referendum if Raila insists on pushing it through.

Among those who have openly opposed the referendum are CORD’s Deputy Chief Whip in the National Assembly Chris Wamalwa, Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch and former Cabinet Minister Ababu Namwamba, one of Raila’s strongest political allies. Machakos governor Alfred Mutua has also opposed referendum calls.

“I have told my party leader in no uncertain terms that this is not the time to call for a referendum. We have barely recovered from our election loss and now Raila wants us to go back the polls to be humiliated again? No way!,” said Buuri MP Mpu Aburi yesterday.

In his column published in the Sunday Standard yesterday, Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba seemed to be speaking for many of the CORD MPs, governors and senators when he said he was opposed to the push for constitution amendments because it could open the floods gates for the mutilation of the new constitution.

“Kenyans will be wary of any hasty amendments, with very good reasons. The independence constitution was cynically mutilated by a series of ill-intended gung-ho amendments that it was barely recognisable from the tattered document we confined to the dustbins of history three years ago.

“Furthermore, examples from mature democracies present some sobering lessons, with the history of the United States Constitution offering particularly useful insights…that while it is more likely to undergo fundamental changes early in its life before it finds that point of stability, such changes ordinarily aim at advancing liberties of citizens and the public good…not caressing egos and wild fancies of the rulers! The key is not the timing. It is the intention, the objective.

“How does this referendum address the disturbing trend of the sky-rocketing cost of food, electricity and fuel? How does it answer the big national headaches of spiraling unemployment, insecurity and incessant strikes?” he posed.

Opposition to the referendum calls has also been voiced by 25 MPs from Jubilee as well as Deputy President William Ruto.The MPs and Senators from both Jubilee and CORD-said those calling for a referendum had an ulterior motive.

They argued that the government had resolved to devolve 34 per cent of the funds collected nationally to counties. This, they added, had been done without any referendum.

The MPs who spoke at the rally in Embu included area Senator Lenny Kivuti, Senators Kiraitu Murungi,Kembi Gitura, George Khaniri, Paul wa Matangi, Dr. A. Zani, Kipchumba Murkomen and Beatrice Elasi, Joy Kwendo, Liza Chelule,

Others were Governor Charles Wambora, MPs Charles Muriuki, Joseph limo, Leonard Sang, David Kareithi, Njogu Barua, Alex Muiru, Mpuri Aburi, Muthoni Njuki, Beatrice Nkatha, Joseph M’Eruaki, Joseph Muchiri, Cecily Mbarire among others.

The leaders made the remarks during a homecoming /thanks giving ceremony for Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti held at Kanyuambora primary school grounds in Mbeere North.

Deputy President William Ruto echoed sentiments by the senators, MPs among other leaders that the calls for a referendum had nothing to do with resources for the county government but instead some leaders were looking for a platform for political contest.

‘What these individuals are talking about 40 percent of resources to be given to county government was not in their manifestos in the first place. They did not indicate any percentage in their manifesto. They have just borrowed from it our manifesto,’ said Mr.Ruto.

– the-star.co.ke

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