There is palpable political atmosphere in Kenya following mixed reactions trailing the proposal by lawmakers to amend the country’s constitutional amendment scraping off the presidential term limit.
Should the lawmakers sails through in amending the constitution, Dr William Ruto, the sitting President, would have the leeway to seek re-election for four terms, or 20 years. Dr Ruto is aged 55 and has not indicated any intention to contest beyond the current term limit.
A United Democratic Alliance (UDA) lawmaker has revealed plans to seek the scrapping of the presidential term limit, noting that the cap should be on age, not period of service.
According to Fafi MP Salah Yakub, MPs are working to scrap the two-term presidential limit by amending Article 142 of the Constitution
He stated that they are working on a constitutional amendment Bill to replace the cap with age not the period of service.
“We want to tell Kenyans that the limit on two terms should be relooked. We want it to be changed to an age limit where when one gets to 75 years, then he/she cannot contest for the presidency.”
“We will come up with an amendment to try to change this because we want the requirement to be on age limit and not terms. If a president is doing a good job, then he or she should not be limited by the terms,” the lawmaker.
If successful, the plan will lock out Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga from running for the presidency in the 2027 election.
Others who will be affected include Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, and others who could be willing to succeed William Ruto.
A section of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party leaders dismissed the plan to scrap off presidential term limit saying it is “madness” and “totally ridiculous” and that it will not sail through.
Mr Yakub, who said there have been closed-door discussions on the proposal, however refused to divulge the names of the MPs behind the new development or whether it has the blessing of the UDA party top brass.
Mr Yakub said that what is remaining is for the proposers to sit and draft the constitutional amendment Bill and forward it to Parliament.
He first made the comments during a relief food distribution drive in Garissa County over the weekend, where he said: “We want to tell Kenyans that the limit on two terms should be relooked. We want it to be changed to an age limit where when one gets to 75 years then he or she cannot contest”.
“We will come up with an amendment Bill to try to change this because we want the requirement to be on age limit and not terms. If a president is doing a good job, then he or she should not be limited by the terms,” he added.
Repeal of section 2A
The two-term limit came into effect ahead of the 1992 elections following the repeal of section 2A of the old constitution. The 2010 Constitution maintained the presidential term limit.
According to Article 142 of the Constitution, the President shall hold office for a term beginning on the date on which the President is sworn in, and ending when the person next elected President is sworn in. The article goes ahead to state that a person shall not hold office as president for more than two terms.
The timing of such a proposal, coming only three months after a hotly contested presidential election, could raise political temperatures. At his current age, for instance, President Ruto would be eligible to contest in the 2027, 2032 and 2037 elections if the term limits are replaced with the age limit.
A proposal of such magnitude, however, would require the proposer to marshal a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, as well as a simple majority of Kenyans in a referendum.
UDA chairman Johnson Muthama has dismissed the controversial proposal by Fafi MP Salah Yakub to scrap the presidential term limit as personal, saying the party stands for open democracy.
Mr Muthama insisted that the proposal does not reflect the party’s ambition.
“As the National Party chairman, I wish to categorically state that Hon. Yakub made a personal statement which has nothing to do with UDA. As a Party, we stand for open democracy and we remain supportive of the two-term presidential limit and (there) no ongoing discussions to scrap it,” Mr Muthama said.
Again, National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed laughed off the plans, saying the presidential term limit is cast in stone.
“This madness of Kenya Kwanza will come to an end very soon. They are talking about many things but once their minds settle, they will realise that they have work to do and stop all this monkey business they have been taking the country through in the last two months,” he said.
Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo also dismissed the proposal, terming it “totally ridiculous” and next to impossible. “Where will such an amendment pass through? He is just looking for cheap publicity. It will be a waste of time,” said Mr Maanzo.
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said such a move would be met with stiff resistance from Kenyans, while Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said: “Let them bring it first then we shall see what next. We will not waste time on roadside or funeral declarations.”
However President Ruto has not commented on the matter, and neither has he indicated an intention of serving beyond the constitutional term limit.