The campaign to defeat the proposed constitution has intensified after the No camp launched a secretariat to plot its activities and immediately declared victory.
Three Cabinet ministers and 18 MPs, who attended the launch in Nairobi’s Upper Hill Wednesday, exuded confidence of rallying Kenyans to vote against the proposed new set of laws during the referendum set for August 4.
Cabinet ministers William Ruto (Higher Education), Naomi Shaaban (Special Programs) and Samuel Poghisio (Information and Communications) and the MPs said they wanted to bring meaningful change to the country contrary to a cosmetic transformation that the Yes team was agitating.
“It is a contest between those who want to put meaning to change and those who want change because it is fashionable. God willing, we are going to win,” declared Mr Ruto, the de facto leader of the No campaign.
Desperation and excuses
Mr Ruto said the Yes team is ignorant of provisions in the proposed constitution and requires civic education.
“We want to encourage Committee of Experts, which has now been baptised Committee of Errors, to assist our brothers and sisters in Yes with some civic education,” he said.
He said the Yes team was only giving excuses of why the document should be passed but “there are enough reasons to reject it".
“Rather than vote on account of excuses we are going to vote on account of reasons. It takes reason to stand on No side which is pushing this country not to adopt a faulty constitution. We must not allow desperation and excuses to allow passage of a constitution that legalises shedding of innocent blood.”
The group asked the United States to keep off the referendum campaigns.
The secretariat, named the Red Card Centre, is headed by university lecture Tom Namwamba.
The offices, in a former Kenya Railways house, were dominated by the red colour which is a symbol for the No campaign. A red card with the words “NO” inscribed on it and a brochure outlining a nine-point campaign platform were among the materials that were distributed.
And the politicians were joined by the clergy—Pastor Wilfred Lai of Jesus Celebration Centre and Bishop Boniface Odoyo of Nairobi Pentecostal Church— who have already said they will use the pulpit to convince voters to reject the proposed constitution at the referendum.
Former detainees Njeru Kathangu and Wanyiri Kihoro were also present and said Chapter 9 creates a super imperial presidency with absolute and draconian powers.
Speakers at the launch, among them assistant minister Wilfred Machage and Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi warned of eviction of some communities from Rift Valley, Nairobi and Nyanza if the new constitution is passed.
“We will not accept to suffer while people sit on our land,” Mr Kapondi said and named Bungoma and Trans Nzoia as belonging to his Sabaot community.
The proposed constitution would further breed animosity between Christians and Muslims due to the inclusion of kadhi courts, the No team said.
Mr Machage also said President Kibaki could be taken to the International Criminal Court at The Hague by November if the proposed constitution is passed as it strips him of immunity.
The widow of former chief justice Cecil Miller, Christine, also said the Yes team had not gone to parts of Central “as they know they would be stoned and told it is a No zone.”
Dr Shaaban, who was the chief guest, said many constituencies in North Eastern, Eastern, Coast and Rift Valley would be scrapped if the new law is passed.
The No team cited provisions on sovereignty, Bill of Rights, economic and social rights, equality and freedom from discrimination and the executive as some of those they were against.
Others are on land, representation, equity, devolution, the youth and amendment by popular vote.
The group is unhappy that any treaty or convention signed by Kenya shall form part of law of Kenya under the proposed constitution and that there’s room for abortion if permitted by health professional.
They are also opposed to every person having a right to the highest attainable standard of health including reproductive health care terming it “abortion on demand".
Mr Ruto said homosexuality is allowed in the proposed constitution through a provision “the state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin...”
On Land, the No team says the National Land Commission has been given extreme powers adding that legitimate land owners have also been denied protection.
Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi said the 47 counties contained in proposed constitution ignored population density and size.
The group added that it would also be difficult and expensive to amend the new constitution.
“It is easy to go to heaven than change the proposed constitution,” Mr Linturi said.
Mr Poghisio accused the Yes team of forcing Kenyans to vote in favour of the proposed constitution.
Dr Shaban said the proposed constitution would further outlaw the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
She said that some of the leaders in the Yes camp were supporting the No campaigns but do not want to come out openly.
Also in attendance were assistant minister Linah Jebii Kilimo and MPs Luka Kigen, Daniel Mwoki, Peter Kiilu, Benjamin Langat, Zakayo Cheruiyot, Moses Lessonet, Julius Kones, Peris Simam, Isaac Ruto, Cyrus Jirongo, Kiema Kilonzo, Sammy Mwaita and Joshua Kutuny.
Assistant minister Peter Munya and MP Silas Muriuki sent apologies.