Kenya’s constitutional change debate quelled for political stability

Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga

Kenyans for now would not be bombarded by calls to change constitution or the current structure of government, a debate that had been gathering momentum.

The push to amend the constitution was threatening to split the country into two opposing groups, raising the political temperatures.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga was the key pillar behind the push to change the constitution, with the veteran politician rooting for a three-tier system of government.

On the opposite site was Deputy President William Ruto who had dismissed the change agents as self-seekers, with his supporters accusing Odinga of pushing for amendments to block Ruto from succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.

The rivalry had threatened to shake the current political stability achieved after Odinga and Kenyatta signed a truce on March 9 following divisive polls last year.

Kenyatta in the last two weeks has been able to mollify the two camps by publicly speaking against the debate and reaching out to the two groups, forcing both Ruto and Odinga to retreat.

Odinga on Saturday announced that he would wait for advice from a 14-member team he picked with Kenyatta to assess ways on how to unite the country.

The team that was gazetted last week by the government has one year to complete its work.

Ruto, on the other hand, has promised to stop politicking in relation to the constitution and succession politics.

Many Kenyans have welcomed the move, noting it would help create an environment for the country’s economy to grow.

“What we want as the youth of this country is jobs or income generating activities which can not be created if we politic all-through,” Caroline Khakasa, a peer educator with a non-governmental organisation in Nairobi, said Sunday.

Khakasa noted that the country was facing many challenges, including rampant corruption, unemployment, ethnic divisions and poverty, which can not be tackled in a charged political environment.

“You can not confront corruption if leaders are raising the political temperature. Some will start claiming their communities are targeted curtailing the fight,” she said.

According to Khakasa, the debate on the constitution had provided the right environment and fodder for politicians to politick on succession politics.

Richard Mutuku, an opposition supporter, lauded Odinga for choosing to stop the debate.

“He started it and now that he has retreated, I don’t think it would go on. The country for once is going to focus on other key issues,” he said.

Mutuku, however, noted that when the appropriate time comes, the debate should happen for constitution to be amended.

One of the reasons pointed out for change of constitution is that the current structure has entrenched exclusivity and ethnic divisions.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer and political analyst, credited Kenyatta for Odinga and Ruto retreat.

“He knows that if the debate continues, he would not be able to complete his development projects and, therefore, cement his legacy,” he said, adding Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda need political stability for implementation.

Under the Big Four Agenda, Kenyatta is seeking to implement projects to boost food security, affordable housing, create jobs though the manufacturing sector and roll out affordable healthcare.

Wandera noted a politically charged environment is not good for business, with the current tranquility helping the shilling grow by about 1 percent against the dollar since March 9.

“The clamor for constitution change had come too early after polls. Kenyatta has done well to extinguish it but all said, we need constitution amendment especially on the executive structure,” he said. Enditem

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