Uhuru calls for renegotiations of constitutional reforms

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second right) and his deputy William Ruto (right) together with (from left) Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ODM party leader Raila Odinga during the 11th Mashujaa Day celebrations at Gusii Stadium in Kisii county on October 20,2020.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The President dismissed suggestions that constitutional reforms are only motivated by the creation of new political positions. 
  • Politicians and other leaders opposed to the BBI say it seeks to expand the Executive.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for a “constitutional consensus”, signalling an effort to avert divisive campaigns on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report expected to be made public soon.

Mr Kenyatta used his address during the 11th Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kisii county to say that the country “is staring at a constitutional moment”.

He urged Kenyans not to shy away from taking “bold decisions like our founding fathers”.

He framed the constitutional consensus – a phrase he repeated seven times – around a three-pronged national discourse on promoting political inclusion, equity in distributing resources and stopping violence every election cycle.

The President said the 2010 Constitution, though progressive, has not resolved the zero-sum political game in which the winner takes it all.

He dismissed suggestions that constitutional reforms are only motivated by the creation of new political positions. 

“We should not give my suggestion the parochial interpretation of creating positions for individuals. I am urging for a constitutional consensus that accommodates all communities in an election,” Mr Kenyatta said. 

Politicians and other leaders opposed to the BBI say it seeks to expand the Executive.

Liberation journey

“It should be a consensus that makes it possible for any Kenyan to lead this country,” he added.

Terming it a continuation of the liberation journey started by the country’s founding fathers, the President said the search for a constitutional consensus demands constant negotiations.

“My invitation to the country is to have an honest conversation with itself. This question of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ must come to an end,” he said. 

The President said premature campaigns and endless electioneering create anxiety.

“This is not what the constitutionalists at independence wanted. If we do not change now when we have a constitutional moment, the problem will plague our country for years,” he said.

“I need to remind you that we will have a fifth, sixth and even 10th president. But we have only one Kenya. This is all we have and we must protect it.”

President Kenyatta cited the country’s past constitutional reforms in underscoring the importance of a negotiations. 

“Constitution-making... is constant negotiation and re-negotiation,” he said.

Mr Kenyatta said it would tragic for Kenya to go into elections without addressing thorny issues bedevilling the country.

“If the Littleton Constitution of 1954 was wrong, it was made right by the Lennox Boyd Constitution of 1958. When this constitution outlived its consensus, the Ian McLeod Constitution of 1960 kicked in,” he said, adding that the cycle of negotiating a common ground on nationhood continued even after independence. 

“How do we resolve the winner-take-all situation within a context of competitive politics? How do we fulfil our democratic credentials without ripping apart the diversity of our nation-state?”

National conversation

The President spoke after Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga said BBI would take the country to greater heights. 

Deputy President William Ruto for his part called for a robust national conversation that would bring everybody on board.

Gusii Stadium, the venue of this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations, is where the BBI regional rallies were launched by Mr Odinga last year.

The Covid-19 outbreak in March disrupted the programme.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga said the President would give direction “because no one can stop reggae”.

“When I cautioned against constitutional rigidity in my Madaraka Day address, this is what I meant. Our founding fathers did not intend the country to have a constitution that would enslave us,” Mr Kenyatta said.