UHURU APPEALS TO GOVERNORS ON REFERENDUM

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Governor+Meru+0509kmPRESIDENT Uhuru Kenyatta appears to have abandoned his combative tactic of dissuading the Governors from the referendum push and has instead pleaded with them to abandon their bid.

In an informal meeting at State House on Wednesday, Uhuru promised the Governors he will ensure that the issues they have raised are addressed – without necessarily taking the country through a costly referendum exercise.

The President also told the Governors to engage him directly on issues affecting the devolved units.

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“It was an informal meeting and so many issues came up. The President was concerned that we are raising political temperatures in the country,” Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who attended the meeting, told the Star yesterday.

“He directed the Ministry of Devolution and Planning to engage us to ensure that issues which do not require a referendum are tackled, then he will look at the remaining issues,” Oparanya said.

Several Governors from both sides of the political divide who attended the meeting said the Head of State was emphatic that “there was no need for bad blood” between the two levels of government. Among those present were Isaac Rutto (Bomet), Oparanya, David Nkendienye (Kajiado), Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Ken Lusaka (Bungoma) and Peter Munya (Meru).

Nkendienye said that a number of consultative meetings has been lined up to unlock the standoff, but maintained that no deal has been struck.

“It should be clear that our push for a referendum is still on, until such time as we agree on the issues we have raised,” he stated.

Oparanya said he and the other Governors could not reach a deal with Uhuru during the Wednesday meeting because they had “no mandate from our colleagues”.

But the Governors reportedly assured the President they were ready to abandon their push if their demands, especially the allocation of at least 45 per cent of revenue to the counties, were met. They have a 12-point agenda that includes strengthening the Senate and benefits for county reps.

“As the Council of Governors we are not interested in the politics of this thing. If the issues we have raised can be resolved through other means other than a referendum, why not?” Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi remarked.

A source at State House told the Star that the Governors tabled a raft of demands they want met in order to drop their plebiscite bid.

The Governors reportedly told the President to protect them against them an onslaught from the Senate, fashioned around accountability and transparent use of resources.

The President also urged Governors to avoid engaging in public spats and instead embrace dialogue, cooperation and consultation in addressing their concerns.

All the 47 Governors are due to meet today at Ole Sereni Hotel, Nairobi, where Council of Governors Chairman Rutto is expected to lay bare their deliberations with Uhuru.

Uhuru’s new tactic with the Governors came just days after he turned the heat on the ruling Jubilee alliance county bosses, asking them to resign and seek re-election.

The combative move appeared to have backfired as a tough-talking Nandi Governor Cleophas Lagat joined the push, dismissing the threats from the top as inconsequential.

“They can only threaten civil servants and not us, because we are accountable to those who elected us. Why should I pull out when our roads are in pathetic condition because of government’s refusal to disburse money for their repair? We have no superhighway here in Nandi to warrant me doing so,” the governor fumed.

The President’s move may throw the Opposition’s parallel bid for a plebiscite – dubbed Okoa Kenya – into a spin if the two levels of government strike a consensus.

Cord co-principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula are banking on the Governors’ support to rally their assemblies to approve the referendum bill.

Opposition Governors have also been spearheading the collection of signatures in their regions to trigger the public vote.

Raila’s team has identified a six-point agenda on which the amendment initiative will be formulated.

The agenda includes devolution, land reforms, electoral reforms, inclusivity and equality, fighting corruption and enhancing security.

– the-star.co.ke

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