Ruto caves in, abandons referendum push

August 29, 2013 7:41 am
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This move deals a death blow to the push for a referendum after Senators allied to Jubilee abandoned that ship following a meeting with Deputy President William Ruto last week/FILE
This move deals a death blow to the push for a referendum after Senators allied to Jubilee abandoned that ship following a meeting with Deputy President William Ruto last week/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29 – Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto has halted his push for a referendum to increase counties’ revenue allocation to 40 percent, saying he wants to facilitate dialogue.

This move deals a death blow to the push for a referendum after Senators allied to Jubilee abandoned that ship following a meeting with Deputy President William Ruto last week.

“For now I am persuaded to have one more round of talks to see whether we can discuss and sort out the issues,” said Ruto.

“It is not the wish of Governors that we waste a lot of time on politicking, but you see if we cannot get what is in the Constitution other than through further referendum then that will be our last option,” said the Council of Governors chairman who spoke alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Chief Political Adviser Joshua Kutuny.

Kutuny gave an assurance that the Government had resolved to devolve more funds collected nationally to counties.

“We have committed on allocating 32 percent of the funds to the counties and but they want between 40 percent and 45 percent. We are only appealing for time and for them to give us a chance,” the former Cherangany MP added.” There is no need of taking such things to a referendum when we can dialogue and agree.”

The Senate and Governors united push for a referendum was necessitated by the confusion created when President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Division of Revenue Bill 2013, without their input. The Senate has already moved to the Supreme Court to seek an advisory opinion on their role on the Bill.

The initiative also seeks to amend relevant articles of the Constitution in order to strengthen the Senate to cement its role as the guardian of devolution.

The Governors were also demanding that the central government immediately devolve all functions that are yet to be handed over to the county governments.

Deputy President William Ruto has been critical of the plebiscite arguing that the intention of those calling for the referendum was to destabilise the government, which they described as young.

The Deputy President last week led Jubilee Coalition allied Governors and Senators in distancing themselves from the push for a constitutional referendum saying it’s a ploy by the opposition to undermine the government and hound it out of power.

But the Bomet Governor who has been accused of being used to rock the five-month old Jubilee Coalition administration from within maintained his push for a referendum on devolution and lashed out at his coalition colleagues for abandoning the initiative due to their political affiliation.

“Every time you have an idea and your opponent agrees with you, must you run away from it? Must you run away from this idea because CORD has supported it? In fact, you should be saying thank you very much, and then we move on and say let’s proceed,” he said.

“If every time they agree you run away, when will CORD get out of this country, because they will be here this year, next year and even when we go for the elections in 2017.”

Matters for the Senate and Governors became complicated after a lobby group formed by allies of Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) Leader and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga announced it intends to collect one million signatures to push for a referendum.

The “March 4th Movement” lobby group which was launched by Odinga’s former campaign manager, Eliud Owalo and civil society activist Okoiti Omtatah wants to change relevant in the Constitution to ensure that the next president is elected by an electoral college rather than by popular vote.

The Governors, both from CORD and Jubilee, have stated that their position was based on the need to safeguard the implementation of devolution in the face of political agitation.

Of the total allocation to the counties, they proposed that five percent of the funds be administered at the ward level, with 2.5 percent to cater for women and youth projects and the other left to take care of development priorities.

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