Uhuru and Ruto reach out to governors to soften push for referendum
NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta appears set to yield to governors’ demands as a way of enticing them to drop their push to amend the Constitution through the Pesa Mashinani initiative, a process parallel to the Opposition’s Okoa Kenya.
Sources informed The Standard that the long meeting between the President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and governors at State House on Monday revolved around the reasons why the county bosses want the Constitution amended.
Sources revealed the President and his deputy appeared keen to address the issues raised by governors without necessarily going to a referendum.
Governors want Kenyans to support amendments to the Constitution to, among other things, increase allocations to counties from 15 to 45 per cent of the national revenue.
Other grievances the governors want addressed through the referendum is their involvement in security matters at the county level through the County Policing Authority, devolution of functions specified in Schedule Four and management of natural resources.
Sources who attended Monday’s meeting but declined to be named confirmed that the President and his deputy, perhaps in their effort to scuttle the referendum process, gave in to many of their demands. They described the meeting as “very cordial”.
Monday’s meeting was the third with the Executive but only the first after governors announced their intention to call for a referendum to address challenges affecting devolution.
The Executive and governors have been at crossroads over claims the national government is trying to undermine the regional administrative units through the Devolution ministry and new laws passed by Parliament.
Governors, who spoke to The Standard, reported the President was “very” receptive contrary to their expectations and was “willing to work with the county governments for the interest of the nation”.
The Standard established that apart from the summit resolving that a commission of inquiry be set up to probe the petition by Makueni voters, who are calling for the dissolution of their county, the President directed that issuance of licences for forest loggers be cancelled with immediate effect.
“The President concurred with us that management of forests should be streamlined and proper mechanisms put in place to ensure county governments play a role,” reported a governor who declined to be named so as not to be seen to be the one leaking proceedings of a meeting with the President.
He continued: “There is so much illegal logging, which is depleting our forest cover. We discussed this matter in our last meeting in May but nothing has changed. We are happy the President has issued this directive.”
During the meeting, the leaders also resolved to form a technical committee composing of the President, Council of Governors (CoG) Roads Committee chaired by Uasin Gishu County boss Jackson Mandago and the Roads ministry representatives to iron out the contentious issues surrounding the devolution of road services.
“The classification and sharing of equipment has been a concern to county governments. There is an active case in court, but we hope the team will be able to reach a consensus before the next court session,” said another governor, who is a member of the committee.
He added: “Roads is an important aspect of devolution. To expand our economy, we must have good infrastructure to facilitate easy export of produce to and from local markets.”
Further, governors would soon be part of the security committee at the counties, following the meetings’ resolution that the County Policing Authority be formed.
CoG Chairman Isaac Ruto (Bomet), confirmed that the meeting was enriching as they were able to deliberate on issues affecting counties and were on the same page with the national Executive.
“The issue of Makueni County and security took precedence. We agreed that it was important for the two levels of government to work together for the interest of the nation,” said Governor Ruto.
He said they also deliberated on Makueni’s status, which he concurs with Governor Kivutha Kibwana, that reconciliation attempts with the Members of the County Assembly has not been forthcoming.
The Standard, however, established that the President was hesitant on the dissolution option.
Under Article 192 of the Constitution on the suspension of a county government, the President may suspend a county government following an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war and any other exceptional circumstance.
In the case of Makueni, the President relied on Article 192 1(b) and County Government Act Section 123, to consent on the establishment of a commission of inquiry, once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission verifies the signatures of those who want the county dissolved.
“A person may petition the President to suspend a county government in accordance with Article 192(1)(b) of the Constitution if the county government engages in actions that are deemed to be against the common needs and interests of the citizens of a county,” reads part of Section 123.