President Kenyatta left no one in doubt of his intentions yesterday when he made a strong case for a parliamentary system of government, citing inspiration from the country’s founding fathers.
Though Kenya has made considerable strides in its quest to live the dreams of the illustrious pioneers “there remain two things to be done to re-imagine Kenya,” he said.
The two, he said in his Madaraka Day speech, are “the rigidity of the Constitution” and the “transformation of our civic culture.”
Building his case for the need to amend the 10-year-old Constitution, Uhuru cited the philosophies of his father Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga saying the leaders had long warned Kenyans against sticking with what did not work.
Picking a cue from ODM leader Raila Odinga who last week said a national plebiscite was looming, Uhuru noted that “a constitution is not an end in itself; it is a means to a greater end.”
“It is a living document. And if certain elements of the Constitution outlive their historical purpose, they become a cancer. They must be removed or they will infect the good elements of the mother law,” Uhuru said at the state celebration.
Deputy President William Ruto and Raila were present at the event where the head of state outlined how life would change for Kenyans going forward.
It was the first time DP Ruto appeared in public since the recent purge of his allies at the Senate, with more expected in the National Assembly.
The President hinted at schools reopening within specified guidelines and also called on Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to hold talks with religious leaders towards opening places of worship.
Back to politics, President Kenyatta said it was time to amend the Constitution to deal with perennial political conflicts which he termed as a cancer that must be removed.
He cited the repeal of the infamous Section 2(a) which paved the way for the multi-party system and the embedment of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act of 2008 to accommodate the grand coalition government.
“Ten years later, I am already discerning a constitutional moment. Not a moment to replace the 2010 Constitution but one to improve on it…a moment that will right what we got wrong in 2010.
“But fundamentally, the constitutional moment I discern is one that will bring an end to senseless cycles of violence we have experienced in every election since 1992,” he said.
He added, “And the one that will deepen our democratic credentials and lead to a much more inclusive society, which , I believe , was the intention of the framers of the 2010 Constitution.”
In what appeared to be targeting leaders from his Mt Kenya backyard, Uhuru said “we must not be afraid of changing this system if it does not serve our present purpose”.
Some politicians have opposed amendments that would change the system of government from the current presidential to a parliamentary one.
The Building Bridges Initiative task force that was constituted by Uhuru and Raila after their March 2018 handshake is currently finalising its report that will be submitted to the two leaders by end of the month.
The initial report that was unveiled in November last year before being taken to Kenyans to validate had recommended the return of the position of Prime Minister.
The BBI report also proposed that Kenyans continue to elect their President who remains the head of state and government.
The report said the Deputy President should remain the principal assistant to the President and will be the running mate.
The President will appoint an MP from the largest party or coalition in Parliament as the Prime Minister who will take up the position after being approved by Parliament.
The Prime Minister shall supervise and execute the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government.
Uhuru yesterday said the country cannot re-imagine its nationhood without changing “our political architecture”, which he noted cannot be achieved without “re-engineering our Constitution”.
“If we have done great things in the area of brick and mortar, the greater things that remain to be done have to do with our governance system,” he said.
On the need for transformation of civic culture, he noted the political class should adhere to Chapter Six of the Constitution saying it was meant to bring order, end corruption and respect for the rule of law.
“If we are to push the re-set button and re-imagine our dreams as a nation, we must transform our civic culture to that biased towards duty, handwork and integrity,” he said.
He added, “We need political leaders totally committed to promoting not self but what will transform lives of our people in line with what our founding fathers yearned for.”
He said since he took over in 2013, his administration had issued 10.5 million title deeds, connected 3.5 million homes to electricity and reformed the education system to deal with ignorance as was the wish of the founding fathers.
On infrastructure, Uhuru cited the Mombasa-Nairobi-Narok SGR, the refurbishment of the ports of Lamu and Kisumu and at least 1000 kilometres of tarmacked roads which he said are being built every year.
He also said he launched the Universal Health Care programme to deal with disease.
On coronavirus, the President said his Jubilee administration would continue to roll-out targeted measures to sustain the livelihoods of Kenyans.
DP Ruto who came face to face with Uhuru after days of a brutal purge in Jubilee Party targeting his allies, kept off politics.
Ruto who is said to have had day-long meetings with Uhuru on Saturday asked Kenyans to rally behind the government in these extraordinary times as the country confronts the Covid-19 pandemic.
In particular, he asked religious leaders to keep praying for the country, noting that the challenge presented by the disease was huge.
While urging Kenyans to be cautious and follow the laid down measures by the government in combating coronavirus disease, Ruto applauded Uhuru for leading from the front in the battle.
“Your interventions as you mobilised the government to provide guidelines have borne fruit; we are confident that under your leadership, the country will emerge victorious,” Ruto said.
He said it was imperative for Kenyans to fashion themselves to the new normal as a way of moving into another phase of dealing with the effects of Covid-19.
The Deputy President called for plans on how to open schools, businesses, and places of worship as well as what kind of support to give SMEs.
He exuded the confidence that under the leadership of President Kenyatta “we will have a new normal and Kenya will move into the future the way we have always overcome our challenges in the past”.