Murkomen, Orengo differ on proper time for referendum

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Senate Minority Leader James Orengo with Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri address the media in Nairobi yesterday over the BBI taskforce report consultative meeting scheduled for Friday in Kisii. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Senate Majority Leader  Kipchumba Murkomen and his Minority counterpart  James Orengo yesterday differed on when Kenya will be will ripe to hold a referendum should the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report propose a constitutional amendment through a popular initiative.

While Murkomen, a key ally of  Deputy President William Ruto, says the earliest time a referendum can be held is December, Orengo, a staunch supporter of Opposition chief Raila Odinga, says the country can be ready to hold a plebiscite within six months.

Speaking at separate press conferences in Nairobi yesterday, the Siaya senator said if the BBI team proposes a constitutional amendment, it should be held in the next six months, to avoid clashing with 2020 campaigns.

“For this to succeed, and knowing the election cycle is about to begin, it is important the term of Senator Yusuf Haji-led term is renewed as quickly as possible, as I have said before, if we must have a referendum, and my views is that we should, that it should be conducted not later than June or July,” the Senator who was accompanied by his Kisii counterpart Prof Sam Ongeri said.

Prepare for polls

This according to Orengo will help Parliament and the Presidency use the balance of its term to prepare for the 2022 General Election.

“I want to appeal to Kenyans, to robustly discuss the content of the BBI report in terms of improving and validating the report,” he said.

The Siaya senator dismissed the ongoing discussion on BBI as political posturing on issues that are irrelevant to the legal or constitutional conversation.

One of the popular one, according to him, is the discussion of a powerful Prime Minister, claiming it is being derailed as it does not talk about philosophy and constitutional issues involved in restructuring the Executive.

“It is being politicised in such a way constitution making process becomes a way of creating positions for individuals rather than giving a country a system of government that will serve now and in future,” he lamented.

But Murkomen disagreed saying because of lack of an implementable document; the earliest the country can have a referendum is December.

“If you squeeze time and almost to a conveyer belt, it may be October, November or December,” said the Elgeyo Marakwet senator.

“If you ask me truthfully, there will be no referendum this year. I have heard some politicians saying this is year of referendum forgetting that they said the same thing last year,” he added, in thinly veiled attack on Raila and his allies.

Raila had last year claimed the country will have a referendum after the release of the BBI report warning that those opposed to the document will be swept away by a political tsunami.

Held to account

“Nobody held them to account, what they announced last year. This year (2020), we will not have a referendum, maybe next year or the year after,” he said.

 “Would you think we are such an easy country to negotiate constitutional amendment that would have amendment within the shortest time?” he posed. 

He added: “I doubt that will happen, most likely it would be next year. Do I think, this is a right thing to do? It depends on the people of Kenya. We should throw it back to the people as suggested. Maybe, they are interested in early campaigns than building of economy.”

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