Jobs crisis threatens Uhuru BBI plans - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 3 September 2020

Jobs crisis threatens Uhuru BBI plans

 President Uhuru Kenyatta shares a word with ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the BBI Report on November 27, 2019.

Massive unemployment and job losses are major challenges to President Uhuru Kenyatta's quest for a referendum.

The President vouches for constitutional changes, some requiring a referendum to be adopted.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his political soulmate, also backs the push for a referendum to amend the supreme law.

However, the reality of thousands losing jobs due to a contracting economy overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic, should be a reality check.

The latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report reveals that up to 1.7 million Kenyans have lost jobs and are pushed to the edge for survival.

Joblessness is indeed a ticking time bomb, according to politicians and analysts.

The KNBS report shows that unemployment doubled between April and June to 10.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent in the same period last year.

On Tuesday, Kaburu Kinoti said “it is high time Uhuru accepts the reality that referendum will not happen during his term”.

The don told the Star that “people out there are angry and restless and a provocation in the name of referendum will be resisted”.

Kinoti said it is only in the Uhuru regime that the construction of a double-deck road from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Rironi for billions is being prioritised at a time village schools lack enough classrooms.

“It is not even the question of the jobs and businesses that have been lost but about a regime that has lost touch with Kenyans. Why is Uhuru talking of amending the Constitution when Kenyans can barely afford a meal a day? This is a leadership that has lost direction,” the professor said.

A week ago, President Kenyatta gave the clearest indication that he is stopping at nothing to ensure that the 10-year-old Constitution is amended despite the coronavirus battering the economy.

He and his handshake partner Raila are pushing the changes through the anticipated Building Bridges Initiative task force report.

At the centre of the BBI that has raised a political storm is the mooted expansion of the executive to introduce the office of the prime minister and two deputies which experts warn will increase the already bloated wage bill.

The head of state is not only grappling with the headache brought by the KNBS second quarter Labour Force Report indicating that the number of the unemployed has doubled to 4,637,164 between April and June from 2,329,176 in the same period last year, but he will also have to contend with other emerging hurdles.

Deputy President William Ruto holds that the preoccupation of the government leadership should not be constitutional amendment but how to create jobs, open schools and revive the economy.

Churches, the civil society and other pressure groups are also concerned over the haste to change the supreme law.

Their argument is that the intention is to benefit specific people in the elite class. Others posit that it is foolhardy to change the Constitution when the 2010 document has been partially implemented or deliberately abrogated.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany said “it was ironical for Uhuru in his speech (last week) to praise the 2010 Constitution as one of the best and progressive in the world yet he wants to change it”.

Kositany said “an outgoing President should not be the one agitating for amendments”, blaming the problems the country has faced during elections on the competition between the Odinga and Kenyatta families.

 “The President, while exhorting Kenyans to embrace the constitutional moment now, kept referring to the 2010 Constitution as a ceasefire document. This is an insult to Kenya’s intelligence as the current Constitution took over 20 years with agitators paying with blood and sweat,” he told the Star by phone.

He added: “We are perplexed. What quagmire or strife is Kenya embroiled in now to necessitate the clamour for change of law? We need to interrogate the urgency when Kenya is not in any crisis and President is on his way out of his final lap in office.”

His Kiminini counterpart Chris Wamalwa told the Star that while there is a need to change the Constitution, the timing is wrong.

He said it is insensitive and immoral for the Uhuru administration “to push with speed” the amendments when Kenyans are hurting.

“That 1.7 million Kenyans have lost jobs is an understatement. Unemployment, according to me has tripled.  There is poverty all over as enterprises have been closed down. These should be the priority areas,” Wamalwa said.

He called on the President to urgently receive the report from the task force and make it public for Kenyans to read through and find if their proposals were captured.

“I have been pushing for amendments so that Cabinet Secretaries are picked from among the MPs. That is representation. Kenyans need to read the final report to determine (the) merits and demerits of a referendum. How do you reject or support a referendum yet you have not seen the report?” he asked.

Mukuruwe-ini MP Anthony Kiai and Naivasha's Jayne Kihara concurred that it was immature to amend the Constitution which is yet fully implemented.

Kiai said Uhuru should be preoccupied with better development agenda that will go a long way in cementing his legacy rather than chasing changes to the Constitution.

“What we have is a government insensitive to the people of Kenyans. People are suffering and some people are talking of referendum! What is wrong with our leaders? We should be concerned on how to revive the economy and create jobs. The proposers of a referendum are on a mission that will backfire badly,” he told the Star.

Kihara asked: “What is the essence of changing the current Constitution yet several articles are yet to be rolled out?”

She told the President to “stop living in cloud. If he has clean water, he should not think that other Kenyans do. Several children are out of school, families are going without food and these are the provisions stipulated in Article 43. So why do we want to change the Constitution?” 

Kihara said the Constitution has been under only one president since its promulgation and should not be changed.

“There is no hurry. We are not yet even 10 years with Uhuru and he is already pushing for amendments. There is a problem. Let him finish his term and go home. Other leaders will come and when we get to a stage where we have problems, Kenyans will make proposals.” 

Nyandarua Woman Representative Faith Gitau said those sacked and those whose businesses have been shut due to Covid-19 and had borrowed loans are committing suicide due to stress.

She condemned the demolition of markets and homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it worsened the already bad state of affairs.

“We cannot talk about referendum when Kenyans are killing themselves out of frustrations. Levels of stress and mental challenges are on the rise and  children are not going to school. If schools will be opened in January, where will parents get school fees? The President should be bold enough and end this anxiety,” Gitau said.

East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Simon Mbugua called on the government to prioritise job creation and the resuscitation of the economy.

He said most young businesspeople in Nairobi and in other parts of the country have been forced out after their goods were branded fake and contraband.

“Kirinyaga Road is now a ghost part of Nairobi. Several business are closed. Before Covid-19, we had a crackdown targeting the so-called counterfeits. Its net effect was that several young people closed shop and retreated to villages where some went into crime,” Mbugua said.

He added: “Former President Mwai Kibaki allowed consolidation of containers when importing goods because young businessmen could not afford (to bring one individually).

"Things changed along the way and businesses have been criminalised with government asking small traders to import independently. This has given undue advantage to some foreigners.”

Kajiado county assembly speaker Johnson Osoi said the only referendum that can resonate with Kenyans is the one that proposes the abolition of some elective positions not the expansion of the executive.

He said the government should prioritise nothing but the revival of the economy in the next five years.

“The effects of the post-election violence in 2007-08 on the economy were dire and it took several years to bounce back also the clashes lasted only two months. What of coronavirus that has now take almost seven months? A referendum will be a catastrophe,” Osoi said.   

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