Referendum a double-edged sword for CORD


I am still convinced that CORD created the referendum issue as bait to split disgruntled members in government from Uhuru Kenyatta. This is why they have presented it as a challenge to Jubilee’s legitimacy as a government, hoping to then use whatever divisions exist in Jubilee, to claw away at some of its political constituencies.

However recent developments indicate that CORD might actually have bequeathed Jubilee with a sword with which to challenge CORD’s own political supremacy in their own strongholds across the country. Jubilee now has a political agenda on which to rally political support against CORD which is always a terrific way to raise political support, as we saw in the 2013 General Election and the ICC issue.

Today President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto are able to transverse CORD strongholds at the Coast, in Western Kenya, and in Nyanza, explaining why it is not the right time to hold a referendum. They are at the same time extending the benefits of incumbency to these regions, while carefully explaining they have no problem with Raila Odinga, or his own quest. They are then subtly distinguishing their politics, which they define as politics of development, with his, which some call politics of division and noise.

The result is that Jubilee is gradually getting to learn how to engage with the Coast (drugs is a very good issue), and then using incumbency to do so; something that CORD cannot do. Momentum is now building in the support the Jubilee leadership has in sections of the region, with resistance against the referendum as the excuse. In addition, in great irony the Jubilee political machinery now has an agenda around which to split disgruntled members of the Opposition from Raila! This Jubilee’s machinery is doing with great abandon in Western, another CORD bastion; and in CORD strongholds in Eastern and Nairobi.

Raila Odinga might have wanted to use the referendum platform to ‘steal’ support away from Uhuru Kenyatta, as he did to President Kibaki in 2005. Unfortunately he seems to have forgotten the ‘kitendawili’ that one should be careful when digging a hole for an enemy, because he might fall into it himself.


Last week I raised the issue of how dangerous it is to allow CORD to go around the country collecting signatures based on vague unspecific reasons. I am delighted that my good friend and cousin Kanini Kega, Kieni’s Member of Parliament, has taken up this challenge and gone to court to have CORD forced to articulate exactly the signatures they are collecting, are meant to be in support of.

Essentially what Kanini Kega has done is important because CORD itself does not seem clear on what they are asking for. The former Prime Minister suggests that part of their campaign is to ensure that communities representing over 10 percent in Kenya’s national population, should be restricted to not more than 10pc representation in the public sector. This is a fundamental point that raises questions of discrimination against large ethnic minorities on basis of tribe, but it is not as clear when one reads the five points on the signature collection sheet.

I also pray that the courts allow Kanini Kega’s case to proceed to full hearing because it is important for Kenyans to be able to distinguish what referendum quest they are actually supporting, when signing a signature collection sheet when we have so many referendum ideas floating around.

For example the Council of Governor’s (CoG) have launched the ‘Pesa Mashinani’ referendum quest, which the CoG Chairman Isaac Ruto insists is completely separate from the Okoa Kenya campaign. However CORD’s Moses Wetangula took out a newspaper column last weekend to suggest that Okoa Kenya is actually Pesa Mashinani! How will a Kenyan who only supports the CoG referendum quest know how to distinguish it from the Okoa Kenya one?

Finally Kanini Kega has put CORD to shame by amplifying CORD’s inability to work within established institutions. The Kenyan constitution as currently structured deals with regional (ethnic) representation in public bodies; corruption; insecurity; institutional reforms, etc. CORD has not tested whether what we have works, before trying to change it. Kanini on the other hand is using the same constitution they want to change, to ask them to define exactly what in it they want to change.



This week I hope we finally get closure on the Uhuru Kenyatta ICC Case. It has been over five years of what was supposed to be a process of getting to the truth of what happened in 2007. Unfortunately the only truth we have received is that the ICC Prosecutor did a terrible job building his case. To those of us who put ourselves out there in support of the process it is time to accept we were played, and call it a day.

(Wambugu is the Director of Change Associates; a Political Communications Consultancy)

2 Replies to “Referendum a double-edged sword for CORD”

  1. The Cord leaders have placed all their bets on the referendum. It is an all or nothing gamble where the risks have not been thoroughly thought through. The simple fact that ODM is telling its members to bring their membership fees up to date at this point in time is a clear sign that the logistical costs for collecting the signatures was grossly underestimated.

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