NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The Building Bridges Taskforce has postponed public consultation forums in the counties of Machakos, Kitui, and Makueni to allow time for further consultations.
Chairperson Senator Yusuf Haji (Garissa) and Vice-Chairperson Adams Oloo, the 14-member task force gazetted on March 24, said talks initially slated for Tuesday and Wednesday next week will be held at a later date after further talks.
“A cross section of stakeholders from the three counties have raised a number of cross cutting concerns and suggestions ranging from short notice, venues, and representation during the deliberations,” a statement co-signed by the two indicated.
The taskforce which was given a year to submit its proposals to President Uhuru Kenyatta on how to tackle negative ethnicity, corruption, divisive politics and other challenges facing the nation had on Friday published a detailed itinerary for public engagements across the country.
The initiative, born out of a March 9 truce between President Kenyatta and his rival in last year’s election Raila Odinga, was recently funded to the tune of Sh100 million to enable it discharge its mandate.
The team paid a September 21 courtesy call on President Kenyatta where its members briefed the Head of State on the progress made in fulfilling the taskforce’s mandate at a meeting attended by Odinga.
Other members of the task force are Agnes Kavindu, Senator Amos Wako (Busia), Florence Omose, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, Major John Seii, Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Maison Leshomo, Morompi ole Ronkai, Prof Bishop Peter Njenga, Rose Moseu, and Archbishop Zecheaus Okoth.
Amb Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi serve as joint secretaries.
With only five months left to the expiry of its mandate, the task force is increasingly facing divided opinions with the emergence of two camps – those advocating for a constitutional referendum to address national challenges, and those against a constitutional amendment.
Speaking on the Migori senatorial campaign trail early this month, Odinga reiterated his stance that a constitutional amendment was unstoppable, a revision from an initial position when he had said the referendum would not be stopped if the public wanted it.
“You can’t stop an idea whose time has come,” he said in Awendo on October 5 when he made a stop to campaign for Ochillo Ayacko, his Orange Democratic Movement party candidate for the Migori senatorial by-election.
“We must evaluate if devolution has been successfully and the emerging bottlenecks,” he argued while saying the constitution was ripe for change.
In response to Odinga’s remarks, Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday said he would not engage in a debate on whether or not a referendum should be held.
Speaking at an Anglican Church in Kiambu County, Ruto said the referendum debate would derail the country from the development path set by President Kenyatta in his four-pillar pledge of food security, affordable healthcare, manufacturing, and affordable housing.
“There’re people bothering me, they want to force me to join them in the referendum quest. I want to tell them I am sorry, I am not available on issues referendum because I am busy,” he said.
“What I am keen on is the consolidation of President Kenyatta’s legacy by ensuring his Big Four agenda is successful,” the DP indicated.
Differences between Ruto and Odinga on the referendum debate surfaced in April when the latter called for a review of the constitution to introduce a third tier of government by creating fourteen regional governments in addition to the existing 47 county 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 during his speech at the fifth Annual Devolution Conference held in Kakamega.
Ruto later, in May, responded to Odinga in a thinly veiled reference terming the proposal as misguided.
Speaking at the 3rd Annual Legislative Summit in Mombasa on May 2 Ruto 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.