The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has criticized Thirdway Alliance Kenya’s Punguza Mizingo Bill terming it contradictory and one full of inconsistencies that would result in a chaotic constitutional order.
In a statement on Thursday, the party, through its Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, joined the Election Observer Group (ELOG) to castigate the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) over verification of the Ekuru Aukot’s initiative, further, calling for the election body to publish all the signatures so that Kenyans can confirm their authenticity.
On Thursday last week, IEBC confirmed that Aukot’s initiative was supported by a total of 1,222,541 registered voters.
Sifuna noted that the party is concerned if the Punguza Mizigo Initiative indeed met the required threshold, given that the IEBC still does not have a database of signatures against which it can conduct a verification, further, adding that ELOG had raised serious concerns over mass duplication of signatures which raises authenticity issues.
According to ODM, IEBC had departed from the precedent it set in signature verification for a similar process in 2017 with the Okoa Kenya Bill presented by the CORD Coalition.
In 2016, IEBC rejected Raila Odinga led CORD’s push for constitution reforms on grounds that the coalition had only managed 891,598 authentic signatures out of the 1.6 million submitted.
“Therefore, the commission wishes to declare that the Okoa Kenya proposal to amend the Constitution initiative has collapsed by operation of the law,” then IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan announced in a statement.
The ODM party on Thursday also noted that Thirdway Alliance Kenya’s move to push for constitution amendment was not people-driven.
“It is also critical to point out that constitution-making or amendment must always be people-driven and result from the widest possible consultations with Kenyans of all walks of life which third way did not bother to attempt.
“A proposer for a constitutional amendment through popular initiative has the option under article 257 to put forth general suggestions in the first instance whereupon the Public and other stakeholders would have opportunity to input, refine and enrich their proposals. Third way chose to forego this and went straight to prepare a bill with their proposals which bill was the basis for collection of signatures, ” the statement read in part.
The party took issue with several recommendations by the initiative noting that it’s one that is aimed at scuttling President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
“We cannot fail to notice that the motivation of this initiative was to scuttle the Building Bridges Initiative, which the sponsor had attempted to achieve through court actions.
“We have taken time to study the Bill and have found it problematic as it undermines the spirit of the very Constitution it seeks to amend. It is full of contradictions and inconsistencies and would result in a chaotic constitutional order while not even living to its promise of lessening the burden on the mwananchi, ” the party stated.
Among issues raised by the party is that the Bill claims to be targeting expenditure sites that burden the Kenyan public but doesn’t mention the real areas of concern.
“The biggest cause of burden to the Kenyan taxpayer is debt (domestic and foreign), which currently stands at Sh. 5.3 Trillion (68.9% of GDP). In the current 2019/20 FY, the country will spend Sh. 1.1 Trillion (61% of annual revenue) in servicing the debt. It would have been helpful to propose mechanisms to control runaway borrowing such as a requirement for parliamentary approval of all foreign borrowing, ” ODM states.
The initiative’s bid to reduce the number of members of parliament was criticized by the party.
“The reconfiguration of the Parliament is the most confusing and retrogressive. The following issues stick out: It is proposed to abolish the 290 constituencies and instead have the 47 counties turned into constituencies. Having parliamentary representation at county level goes against the dictum of No taxation without representation.
“The Proposal to designate the Senate as Upper House is not accompanied by concomitant redefining of the functions and powers of Senate and National Assembly, ” the party highlighted.
Sifuna went on: “The Bill proposes to abolish constituencies but purports to retain the wards as is. This is a cheeky gimmick to trick County Assemblies into supporting the Bill.”
ODM, further, noted that the Bill can not be amended and there was a need for Kenyans to reject it and await the report of the Building Bridges Initiative where they will have a chance to debate the proposals before they are translated into a Constitutional Amendment Bill if any.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that few sound proposals are sandwiched with contradictory, outrageous and unsound ones. The constitution is a wholesome document and its amendment must be approached in a wholesome manner. The quest for a perfect constitutional dispensation is not a race to see who gets there first. It must be a product of the most extensive consultative and people-driven process, ” the statement added.
On Tuesday, IEBC dismissed queries raised over signatures in Aukot’s bill.
The election body admitted that indeed there was duplication of ID/Passport numbers but noted that only one record of the same was maintained per supporter.
IEBC also stated that while there were cases of missing details in some forms submitted to the commission, no incomplete record was used for the purpose of establishing the requisite one million signatures.
Further, the commission reiterated that signature’s from Aukot’s initiative had been made public.
“Contrary to the assertion by ELOG, the commission publicised the list of the Punguza Mizigo initiative supporters on its website on 18th April 2019 for a period of 21 days as part of public participation. In fact, to-date, the details of supporters remain on the commission’s website,” said IEBC.
“However, due to financial constraints, the commission was unable to publish the said list in the Kenya Gazette and local dailies.”
Following IEBC’s approval last week, Aukot has begun countrywide lobbying to persuade all the 47 county assemblies to accept the Punguza Mizigo Bill.