What you need to know:
- Okoa Kenya Movement is independent of any single political party or grouping
- Cord principal Raila Odinga optimistic initiative would eventually join forces with the referendum push by the governors
Cord’s push for a national referendum received a major boost on Wednesday after two presidential candidates during the last general election, Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth, joined the campaign.
Ms Karua made a surprise appearance at the official launch of the one-million-signature campaign and declared that she would support the push for the referendum because “the Jubilee government has refused to engage Kenyans in dialogue”.
Mr Kenneth, on the other hand, did not attend the function but declared his support for the push through a message delivered by his running mate during the 2013 presidential election, Ronald Osumba.
Speaking at the function, Ms Karua said she had supported Cord’s call for dialogue to solve the problems facing the nation and regretted that the Jubilee government had refused to open avenues for such dialogue, leaving Kenyans with no option but to push for a referendum.
“My personal view is that referendum is a tool given to us by the Constitution to say yes when the government says no,” she told the gathering.
She noted that there was need for Kenyans to continue engaging in dialogue even after the referendum because not all the ills facing the nation could be solved through the exercise.
Cord principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka took a back seat during the function and allowed representatives of the civil society, led by former Ethics and Governance Permanent Secretary John Githongo, former Safina leader Richard Leakey and academician Dr Adams Oloo, to take centre stage.
Speakers at the function maintained that the Okoa Kenya Movement was not a Cord affair but an all-inclusive process geared towards re-asserting the supremacy of the Constitution.
JOINING FORCES WITH GOVERNORS
“It does not matter whether you are a Cord diehard, it does not matter whether you are a Jubilee diehard, it does not matter whether you are a member of Amani on paper like my good friend Khalwale, Okoa Kenya is for all Kenyans,” said Dr Oloo.
“The Okoa Kenya Movement is independent of any single political party or grouping. In its structure, political parties are accommodated under the banner of a Political Caucus, while a team of experts exists with regard to the referendum and another for advising the initiative as a whole,” explained Mr Githongo during the opening remarks.
Addressing journalists after the function, Mr Odinga expressed optimism that the Okoa Kenya initiative would eventually join forces with the referendum push by the governors.
The Committee of Experts (CoE) spearheading the campaign said it had isolated four issues which would be incorporated in the draft bill to be taken to Kenyans to vote for or against during the referendum.
The issues include devolution, land reforms, electoral reforms and the question of inclusivity and equality.
A member of CoE, Beatrice Kituyi, said they would seek to strengthen the National Land Commission to ensure it is not manipulated by the executive.
Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula, who spoke on behalf of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, said the push for a referendum was unstoppable.
“Those who think that they can stop the referendum must read the Constitution clearly. I’m telling Jubilee that they will not be able to use their tyranny of numbers to stop this campaign,” he said.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale on his part hinted that the Senate would soon unite to support the referendum campaign.
Dr Oloo said the referendum campaign would be steered by various organs, including a National Council of Advisors, the Political Caucus, the National Referendum Committee, CoE and the Citizens Forum, among others.
LET IEBC CONDUCT REFERENDUM
While he appeared on NTV for interview, ODM party leader Raila Odinga said he trusts the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) would conduct a fair referendum, but only under close supervision.
Mr Odinga said he is not just speaking positively about the electoral body because Mr Stephen Kariuki, an ODM candidate, clinched the Mathare parliamentary seat in the recent by-election.
“We did not complain about the IEBC after our candidate lost in the Bonchari by-election,” said Odinga. “Our problem with IEBC is not about how they conduct by-elections. We have a problem with the total infrastructure of the commission, especially the register.”
Speaking Wednesday night in a live interview on NTV, the CORD leader denied speculations that his calls for a referendum are an attempt by the opposition to remain relevant.
He said the referendum is in line with the YES camp in the 2010 referendum which allowed the constitution to pass with the option of amending it later.
“There is no such thing as an opportune time for a referendum. All over the world, referendums are held between elections and Kenya should not be any different. Now is the ideal time,” he said.
Additional reporting by Ngare Kariuki. @cornellngare