NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has cautioned against what he terms as excessive inclusion in the ongoing clamour for a constitutional amendment.
In remarks read on his behalf by Kiambu lawmaker Jude Njomo at the launch of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy’s 2019/2023 strategic plan, Speaker Muturi said the constitutional reform quest could stifle democracy if not carefully structured.
“Maximizing the level of inclusion is problematic because doing so inevitably stifles political competition which is the livelihood of representative democracy. Excessive inclusion is just as bad for democracy as excessive competition,” he said on Monday.
Muturi however encouraged concerted efforts to resolve inter-ethnic tensions during elections which he noted were largely driven by the concentration of political power in the presidency.
“Winner takes it all politics and the concentration of power around the president means that losing parties could expect to be excluded from access to State resources. Elections then encourage ethnic conflict and collapse of political order,” he pointed out.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party Secretary General Edwin Sifuna however disagreed with Muturi emphasizing the need to have inclusion in government through the creation of an expanded Executive.
Sifuna told Capital FM News, “government cannot be too inclusive” adding that ongoing calls to expand the Executive were meant to address sharp divisions arising from divisive politics exacerbated by vicious political competition for the presidency with top contenders balkanizing the country into ethnic formations.
“I don’t think there’s anything like a government that is too inclusive. At the end of the day, the government belongs to all Kenyans and at the point at which we feel that the government is for us Kenya will be better off,” he said.
Sifuna said ODM would soon reveal its proposed amendments of the constitution to the Building Bridges Initiative – a taskforce tasked with reviewing challenges facing the country including ethnic antagonism – before the 14-member taskforce’s term ends in May.
Jubilee Party legislator Ndindi Nyoro however dismissed calls for the expansion of the Executive to include the position of Prime Minister, calling instead for the creation of an Official Opposition in Parliament to accommodate the second runners up in a presidential election as Opposition leader.
The Kihara Member of Parliament who has recently emerged as a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto said it was not possible to expand the executive to accommodate over forty ethnic groups in the country.
“When we talk about having an inclusive government in terms of having more seats we’ll not address the core issue. Inclusion means including all tribes. When you include a Kikuyu, a Kalenjin, a Kamba, a Luhya, a Luo, and a Mijikenda, where do you leave the rest?” he posed.
DP Ruto on Friday added his voice to calls for all-inclusive governance by calling for the creation of Official Opposition in Parliament.
Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs – Chatham House – in London, Ruto said the current dispensation undermined key tenets of democracy as it created “a headless, incoherent and dysfunctional Opposition.”
“Elections in Kenya are a close-run contest. Often enough, the winner and runner-up achieve more than five million votes. The winner ascends to a formally constituted leadership role while the runner-up becomes a virtual stranger in leadership,” he said while advocating for the institutionalization of the Official Opposition.
“I further propose that with the Leader of Opposition taking leadership of the opposition in Parliament, the Deputy President should then take over the Leadership of Government Business in Parliament. This should be replicated with the Deputy Governor at the counties,” he added.
Ruto blamed political leaders for upheavals during elections saying contenders who dispute democratic electoral outcomes were an impediment to political stability.
“The real problem is that we’ve people who participate in elections and they have only one outcome which is not how democrats operate. If you go to an election and you’re only expecting to win then you have a problem,” Ruto said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has hinted at an amendment of the constitution to address perennial election disputes fueled by what he has termed as winner-takes-all politics.
“Our politics must not be on the basis that some people win and others lose. We have to look at a way of in which we can remodel our politics so that we never have some Kenyans feel excluded when others are in government,” he said during a public forum on January 20.
The Head of State made similar remarks on December 13, last, when he visited Kisumu that voted overwhelmingly for his Raila Odinga, his archrival in the 2017 presidential election.
The Building Bridges Initiative formed on March 9 last year when Kenyatta and Odinga resolved to cease political hostilities has been receiving public memoranda on constitutional reform.