Punguza Mizigo bill could shape political alliances

Thursday, September 19th, 2019 07:00 |
County Assemblies Forum chair Ndegwa Wahome (left), addresses the press in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/TIMOTHY NJENGA

Eric Wainaina and Bernice Mbugua

The ongoing debates on the Punguza Mizigo bill, an initiative by Ekuro Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance, has taken a political drift, prompting fears the exercise in the county Assemblies could shape political alliances ahead of 2022.

The exercise is now likely to widen the chasm between proponents and those against the Handshake initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga in March last year.

So far, four counties allied to the President and the former premier have shot down the bill, while the fifth, Deputy President William Ruto’s home county of Uasin Gishu, has passed it.

The DP is a fierce critic of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of the Handshake.

Yesterday, Ward Reps in Homa Bay, in Raila’s Nyanza region backyard, rejected the Aukot-sponsored bill, while Murang’a County Assembly, in Uhuru’s political bedrock, similarly trashed it on  Tuesday.

Other counties that have rejected the bill, which requires the support of 24 county assemblies, are Siaya—the first to do so, Nyeri and Kirinyaga, where it was not even debated. Uasin Gishu remains the only county that has voted in favour of the bill.

National Assembly Leader of Minority John Mbadi, who hails from Homa Bay, said Constitution making was a political process and it was not a surprise that the voting was taking a political dimension. 

Mbadi said Ruto “is the force behind the Aukot  bill”. He observed that the voting pattern would offer “a rough indicator” of Ruto’s popularity.

Aukot regretted yesterday that his bill had fallen victim to Jubilee’s raging wars. He said Tanga Tanga, allied to the DP and Kieleweke, which supports the BBI initiative, had hijacked the Punguza Mizigo bill to propel political agenda.

Political angle

“My initiative has taken a political angle because Tanga Tanga, which has been fighting BBI is using it to advance their narrative while Kieleweke team, which is pro BBI, is determined to thwart passage of the bill, which in their thinking amounts to a win for their opponents,” Aukot told People Daily

The 2017 presidential candidate, who has trashed claims that the DP was sponsoring his bill to flex his political muscles against political rivals, maintained his independence. 

County Assemblies Forum yesterday issued a statement suspending debate on the bill until mid-next month.

The forum’s secretary general Kipkirui Chepkwony said the move was aimed at giving Kenyans time to air their views. MCAs also reportedly agreed to disregard the upcoming BBI report.

Yesterday, Kiambu residents gave a public participation forum a wide berth. It was organised in Thika, the President’s home county. Ward Reps vowed to shoot it down.

Clearly, a political duel is in the offing between the “Handshake Alliance”, advocating for a referendum for inclusivity in governance at the national level, and Ruto’s side, preaching the exact opposite.

Punguza Mizigo advocates for reduction of elective seats, while the “Handshake” wants a review of the Constitution to re-introduce the position of Prime Minister.

The DP and his backers view the BBI process as a calculated plot by his political enemies within Jubilee to scuttle his 2022 presidential bid. 

On Tuesday the DP conceded that Punguza Mizigo was part of the cause of the rifts within Jubilee. This, he explained, had led to an ugly fallout between his backers and those of the President.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru suggested that Tanga Tanga was behind the Aukot bill but was now denouncing it because it was facing rejection in areas Tanga Tanga leaders thought they are popular.

“Congratulations to Muranga county Assembly for rejecting #PunguzaMizigoBill2019. What Kenyans want is a bill that supports unity and inclusion not a defective and impractical bill.

It’s intriguing to see those leaders who supported it now claiming it was not their agenda… interesting times! (sic)” the governor said.

 Gatanga MP Ngugi Nduati, one of the proponents of the Handshake, said the rejection of the bill in Central region was a strong political message. He said it demonstrated the President’s political dominance in the region.  

“Technically, supporting the bill is fighting the President and his Handshake initiative but its rejection in Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Murang’a yesterday (Tuesday), only affirms our position that the President’s grip of the regions is intact,” Nduati told People Daily yesterday.

But his Kikuyu counterpart Kimani Ichung’wa, a Tanga Tanga member, rubbished claims their faction had anything to do with the bill. He said these were “ridiculous claims which will not go anywhere”.

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