, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 20 – Governors supporting a referendum to strengthen the role of county governments in the country began collecting signatures on Saturday afternoon, and vowed they will not be intimidated to drop the initiative.
The exercise was launched in Bomet County, the home turf of the area Governor Isaac Ruto before extending to other counties across the country.
“We want to collect as many signatures as possible to prove the support we have from Kenyans,” Ruto who chairs the Council of Governors said of the initiative strongly opposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto. The two have termed the exercise a “waste of time.”
“We have launched this initiative of collecting the signatures, there is nothing to stop us now because the train has left the station,” Ruto said.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who also attended the signature collection launch warned leaders against politicising the issue, saying it is for the benefit of Kenyans.
“There is no politics involved in this because we are doing it for the sake of Kenyans,” Oparanya said in sentiments echoed by fellow governors Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), James Ongwae (Kisii) among others.
Both the President and his Deputy have said they are convinced the exercise is a ploy by the governors working closely with their political archrival Raila Odinga to frustrate their government’s development agenda.
The Bomet Governor however, disagrees, insisting “it is at the interest of Kenyans who want devolution to succeed.”
He has accused the Jubilee government of frustrating devolution by failing to release more funds to the county governments.
Although the Bomet governor insists his initiative has nothing to do with what the opposition is pursuing, the Deputy President disagrees saying governors and CORD are working together to frustrate them.
“The calls for a referendum have nothing to do with money. It is simply a ploy by those who were defeated in the last general election to remain relevant,” he said on Friday “we know they are working with the opposition.”
The Bomet governor has previously stated that they can only merge their referendum with CORD if the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission insist.
A number of his fellow governors elected on the Jubilee ticket have however, expressed opposition to the calls for the Pesa Mashinani referendum, arguing that there are less drastic ways to secure sufficient funding for county development projects.
But Ruto has accused them of cowardice in the face of the coalition leaders’ open opposition to calls for a referendum, with the president urging those supporting the move to quit and seek a fresh mandate from Kenyans through political parties of their choice.
The Bomet governor insists that referendum was the only best option available to them to strengthen devolution; accusing the national government of reneging on their promise of ensuring the county governments’ operations are sufficiently funded.
The President’s ultimatum therefore, he said, was of no consequence to him as, “I am doing what is right.”
The lack of support by a section of governors, he said, would also not take the wind out of Pesa Mashinani’s sails.
“I’m seasoned enough not to be scared by empty drums,” he said of those opposed to the Pesa Mashinani referendum drive.
On the other hand, CORD which launched its Okoa Kenya referendum signature collection drive last month, claims it has exceeded the one million required to propose an amendment to the Constitution by popular initiative.