, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 – Deputy President William Ruto has in a thinly veiled reference to his main political rival Raila Odinga dismissed calls for a referendum, as misplaced.
Ruto who spoke at the 3rd Annual Legislative Summit in Mombasa on Tuesday said the clamour for constitutional change was being fronted by politicians who had failed to win public trust to govern.
“Unfortunately sometimes, lazy people who don’t want to work hard and incompetent people who cannot formulate any meaningful development programmes, and some who lose elections use the Constitution as the bogeyman,” he stated.
The Deputy President said leaders should instead focus on how to improve the livelihoods of the people they serve.
“Even when we will discuss that subject (referendum), it cannot be a discussion about the politicians only. It has to be about the people; those who don’t have jobs, food, roads, and health centres,” he said amid cheers from attendees of the legislative forum who included members of the National Assembly, the Senate, and 47 County Assemblies.
Ruto was speaking shortly after Senate Minority Leader James Orengo made reference to calls for constitutional review, first made by his party leader Odinga in the aftermath of a peace deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9.
“Let us look at the issues! Don’t overrule before you hear the arguments!” Orengo appealed.
“Some of you when you see Orengo or Ruto you already have a preconceived mind. Please look at the message. What makes nations great are ideas and those ideas are contained in the Constitution,” the newly-elected Senate Minority Leader remarked.
President Kenyatta has since dismissed calls for the review of the Constitution saying his sole aim is to focus on the delivery of his Big Four Agenda action plan.
“I have no time to run around telling people to change the Constitution. It won’t solve the problems we have. But engaging with the private sector on manufacturing like we are doing (I) will,” President Kenyatta said on Saturday when he hosted the Kenya Private Sector Alliance at State House.
Odinga who lost to Kenyatta in last year’s two presidential elections had during the fifth Annual Devolution Conference held in Kakamega last month proposed the introduction of another tier of devolved governments with the creation of fourteen regional governments.
“My proposal is that we adopt a three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional or provincial governments and retains the national government with a very clear formula for revenue sharing,” the former premier said on April 25.
Odinga’s lieutenants have also been calling for the review of the national executive to introduce the position of a Prime Minister under a parliamentary system of governance.
Ruto had in a quick rejoinder on April 26 dismissed the proposal by Odinga while making his remarks at the closing ceremony of the fifth Annual Devolution Conference.
“If there will be a suggestion on creating another layer of devolution, it must not necessarily be about amending the constitution. It must be about devolution downwards, not devolution upwards. It’s not about creating another layer, it’s about effective management of resources,” he said.
“A bad workman quarrels with his tools. If you are a bad workman, you will find all manner of excuses; blame the constitution or the MCAs or Senators. We built the SGR and didn’t need to amend any Constitution. It’s all about being focused,” Ruto said seemingly referring to Odinga’s four failed attempts at the presidency, in 1997, 2007, 2013, and 2017.
Odinga has maintained that all post-independence elections in Kenya were undemocratic except in 2002 when Mwai Kibaki defeated President Uhuru Kenyatta, then ruling party candidate, to take over from Daniel arap Moi who had ruled the country for 24 years.
In the aftermath of the 2017 repeat presidential election, Odinga led a defiance campaign ultimately leading to his self-inauguration as “People’s President” on January 30 this year in protest of President Kenyatta’s swearing-in on November 28 last year.
Odinga had boycotted the election despite having convinced the Supreme Court to nullify an earlier poll held on August 8 saying the poll agency lacked independence.
He, however, backtracked on his civil disobedience campaign when he reached a peace deal with President Kenyatta on March 9 in what has come to be famously referred to as the Harambee House handshake.