NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 29 – The National Council of Community Based Organization (NCCBO) leader Tom Aosa has called for the formation of a giant civil society caucus to check on the government.
He says the push comes in the wake of concerns that opposition has failed in delivering on its mandate of keeping the Jubilee government in check while working together with the executive to ostensibly unite and develop the country.
“We must stand up as the civil society. This is the time that we in the civil society must come together and become more powerful like the times of James Orengo, those were times when the civil society was extremely strong. The time of Kivutha Kibwana, those times we must come back and you unite. We need to come together whether with funds or without but we need to come together for the sake of this country,” Aosa explained.
The CBO lobby group narrated that the current situation is the culmination of the on-going campaign to de-legimatize civil society movement in the country by the Jubilee government since it came to power in 2013.
Aosa said although he supports the handshake between the President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga he criticized the turn of events where parliamentary opposition cannot offer meaningful oversight to the Executive.
He notes a case in point being the relaxed approval of nominees for various offices and unpopular legislation.
“Since the handshake took place how much money has been lost from the public coffers? We don’t know, because no one it telling Kenyans about it right now.”
“But before that, the former Prime Minister used to tell us, Kenya is going to the dogs because we are borrowing too much from various certain institutions; but now he was in China trying to help his colleague borrow more money to fund the SGR. So who is going to help us, is the question Kenyans are asking,” Aosa stated.
Toward this end, National Council of Community Based Organization boss has joined the clamour for the creation of the Office of the Prime Minister and recognition of the official opposition leader in Parliament.
Aosa said the current formulation undermines executive accountability and saddled the country nascent democracy with a incoherent and dysfunctional opposition.
“We must have a complete secretariat of the opposition leader, with all the facilities that the President can get, but in minimal way. There the people who still want to hear from him. There are people who say this is the person who we wanted to be the president. Let us create that position; he is more powerful in fact than even the Deputy-President.”
“The position cannot be left for people to go and sort themselves out for 5 years. If we did that constitutionally we will have sought out the threat of post-election violence, because people will see and say that even our person got something,” Aosa explained.
His proposal is a hybrid of the made by Deputy President William Ruto who wants the leader of the party which comes second in the presidential poll becomes the leader of the opposition and with his or her running mate, automatically become Members of Parliament, and assume leadership of the Official Opposition.
“This formula should apply at the county level. I further propose that with the Leader of Opposition taking leadership of the opposition in Parliament, the Deputy President should then take over the Leadership of Government Business in Parliament. This should be replicated with the Deputy Governor at the counties,” The DP explained in a proposal he presented during his speech at the Chatham House, London.
Aosa further proposes the 8 member Senate should be elevated into an Upper House.
In their proposal to be submitted to the BBI initiative, the CBOs wants the country to go back to the pre-2010 Constitution in which Cabinet Secretaries were Members of Parliament where they can attend a session every week to respond to issues raised.
“I don’t support this system where the CS is appointed by the Presidency because that makes this person an employee of the President. He cannot disagree with him even when he knows that the President is wrong. He will just do what the President wants and therefore everything is working for one person. But if the ministers are drawn from the peoples’ representatives then that empower them because even if they are sacked they can always go back to being an MP and play an active oversight role,” The NCBO leader pointed out during a interview.
He has further called for reduction of counties to 8 from the current 47 and also proposes that the country reverts to 210 constituencies as a way of managing the ballooning wage bill.
In the proposal, the CBOs lobby group called for the abolishing of the nominated seats in the legislative assemblies.
“As we approach the boundary review exercise, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has to reject the push by the political leaders to increase the number of constituencies, because they are going to start saying my population is too high and other things; because people are fighting for their interests that will make Kenyans pay much more.”
“The conversation we should be having is how can we reduce the number of constituencies not how can we increase. If it is about representation, let us have representation at the grass root, where we can have many county wards with large constituencies, that way these people can represent people directly at the grassroots,” he explained.
The community based organisation chief wants constitutional officer holders such as the chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to be accorded security of tenure to protect them from intimidation from government arms like parliament.