Proposals were shelved in 2016 when the URP wing of Jubilee hit the roof after it got wind of the suggestions.
Furious, the URP read the petition as a clever ploy by Ruto’s detractors to get him out of Kenyatta’s succession line-up and Kamket’s Bill on referendum is seen as a move to test reactions to proposals
The Jubilee party has been toying with the idea of amending the Constitution to split and expand the Executive since 2015, but kept it under wraps until the 2017 re-election hurdle was scaled.
Key proposals were creation of two deputy vice-president positions and re-introduction of the Office of the Prime Minister.
According to the internal document, Jubilee had planned to ride the 2017 re-election campaign on the proposed amendments to shore up support for President Kenyatta’s bid for a second term.
Jubilee shared the proposals with then Cord senior officials, who later launched Okoa Kenya Referendum Bill (2016), but which sank after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) dismissed signatures presented as “fake”, insinuating that they did not represent “real” registered voters according to IEBC records.
However, details emerging from intense internal Jubilee wars over proposed amendments indicate the United Republican Party (URP) faction of the ruling party came close to threatening to move out of Jubilee to launch a separate campaign in the 2017 General Election, if their The National Alliance (TNA) partners insisted on pushing for the amendments.
The first public hint that something was afoot to amend the supreme law came in January 2016 when veteran political commentator Tony Gachoka showed up at a press conference with then Cord leader, Raila Odinga, to “petition” him to reach out to President Kenyatta over constitutional amendments.
Mr Gachoka said at the briefing that was held at Mr Odinga’s office at Upper Hill that he would deliver the same petition to President Kenyatta. It was not clear whose errands Mr Gachoka was running. He was a former chief of protocol of Mr Odinga when he was Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition Government (2008-2012).
The petition addressed to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga called for “urgent consensus in public interest” on “need for changes in some of the constitutional, legal and administrative laws by way of a referendum while areas in which agreement can be reached should be negotiated in the public interest [by] Parliament without a referendum.”
Significantly, bullet one of Mr Gachoka’s petition called for a “National Consensus Discussions (NCD) on four principal matters in the public interest …” which today sounds like another name for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Then in February 2018, a surprise Constitutional Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament by Tiaty MP William Kamket, whose key proposal included creation of the Office of the Prime Minister and abolition of office of the Deputy President.
It is significant despite its monumental implications that Kamket’s Bill was not sponsored by any political party nor was it a result of any debate. It came to be seen by some as flying the kite to test reactions to the radical proposals.
Mr Kamket is a Kanu MP and the party has been a vocal proponent of constitutional amendments.
Weeks after Mr Kamket’s Bill triggered a fiery debate, the now famous March 9 handshake and BBI, whose agenda is similar to that contained in Mr Gachoka’s petition two years earlier, came to be. Sources say the proposals did not reach the public debate stage when URP got wind of it and hit the roof.
Furious, the URP read the petition as a clever ploy by Deputy President (DP) William Ruto’s detractors to get him out of the Uhuru Kenyatta succession line-up. The petition, they said, was also to edge Mr Ruto out of the 2017 re-election as Mr Kenyatta’s running mate, and probably replace him.