, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – CORD leaders and the OKOA Kenya Secretariat have formally submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) signatures and its draft Bill for verification to kick-start their referendum bid.
Speaking to journalists soon after the handover, CORD Leader Raila Odinga said they were determined to meet all the legal requirements to guarantee approval for the referendum.
“This process ends a phase in the amendment to the Constitution. We now are handing the ball to IEBC and we hope that the commission will not hold on to the ball in their goal for too long and they will kick it quickly to the County Assemblies,” said Odinga.
Article 257 of the Constitution states that once the commission has verified that the initiative is supported by one million signatures, it is expected to submit the draft Bill to each County Assembly for consideration within three months. This can however be done sooner if the commission completes the process before the set period – and this is what the Opposition and the civil society organisations supporting the bid want.
IEBC Vice chairperson Lilian Mahiri-Zaja acknowledged receipt of the documents but called on the secretariat to submit soft copies of the signatures to help hasten the process of verification since the booklets were bulky.
“Today IEBC receives the signatures and the proposed Bill and we shall proceed to handle the matter in accordance with the law; the commission commits to carry out an impartial and independent job,” she stated.
She noted that if the process culminated in a referendum, the National Treasury would have to allocate monies to the commission to enable it carry out the referendum which she likened to an election.
Among the leaders who attended the handover ceremony were NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula (FORD Kenya) and Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) who termed the event as historic.
Karua said she was excited to be part of an initiative where citizens took it upon themselves to amend the Constitution to strengthen devolution and attend to their pressing issues.
“This initiative is a great milestone in our history. We are walking a great journey to constitutionalism by doing what we are doing,” she said.
Musyoka urged his colleagues to ‘fasten’ their seat belts since the ‘journey’ had now seriously begun.
He also joked about the panic that had ensued earlier after the principals were stuck in a lift in the commission’s offices joking that IEBC clearly also needed help.
Wetangula who is also facing possible removal from office after being found guilty of committing an electoral offence noted that during debate over the new Constitution, there were reservations about it.
He stated that the OKOA Kenya draft Bill was offering Kenyans something better to improve what they fought for and which was eventually adopted.
“This document will also herald a new dawn of balancing public appointments and strengthening devolution. I salute Kenyans who volunteered to be part of this,” he reiterated.
Anti-corruption crusader John Githongo who contributed to the development of the draft Bill stated that they were willing to cooperate with the electoral body throughout the process.
According to Okoa Kenya Committee of Experts chairman Paul Mwangi, 1.4 million signatures have been collected in support of the referendum seeking amendments for more funding to counties, electoral changes, institutional and land reforms, and the entrenchment of the Constituency Development Fund into the Constitution.