Understanding Punguza Mizigo Bill – The 7 year Presidential Single Term Limit

The Punguza Mizigo Bill which among other things proposes to limit a President’s term to a 7 year single term, has been out for weeks with County Assemblies across the country commencing the debate on it. Kenyans too have been engaged on the debate especially online. The online debate has recently pitied Punguza Mizigo Bill against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) leading to a number of individuals creating online polls meant to gauge whether Kenyans prefer Punguza Mizigo Bill or the BBI. One such poll was created by Facebook blogger Dorcas Sarkozy where her Facebook followers ended up voting 47% for BBI and 53% for Punguza Mizigo. As she stated in another post, her poll cannot be considered as reflective of Kenya as almost half of all those who voted were Luos who leaned towards BBI almost 100%. If those who voted for Punguza Mizigo are assumed to be representative of majority of Kenyan cultures (ethnicities), then we can assume that more than 70% of Kenyans support the Punguza Mizigo initiative.

To compare the results, I just created a poll at Kachwanya Twitter account. By the time of writing this the poll had garnered 30 votes with 63% voting for Punguza Mizigo. Once the poll is done I’ll update the article to reflect the final results.

With the debate between Punguza Mizigo and Building Bridges Initiative going on, I thought it wise to highlight what both bills are saying, but since the BBI team is yet to produce a document stating what BBI proposes, the content of Punguza Mizigo Bill will start us off. The aim is that by the end of the process and in case both bills end up at a referendum, you shall have been adequately informed on the content of both bills.

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One of the most important and extremely drastic proposals in the Punguza Mizigo Bill touches on the Presidential Term Limit. Currently, a President in Kenya is allowed up to a maximum of two terms each comprised of 5 years. The Punguza Mizigo Bill however intends to change the 5 year two terms limit in the current constitution to a single 7 year term. In the document containing the Bill, Thirdway Alliance has gone ahead to justify the 7 year term limit as follows:

Justification:

  • History of violence, ethnic and political tensions that leads to economic meltdown. Elections in which a sitting President participates in have been known to cause pre and post election violence. This happen in many African nations especially when the sitting president is likely to lose so the state uses all state resources including the military and the police, not to maintain peace, but to cause violence. Those interested in dislodging the president also resort to the use of tribal gangs and groupings to attack those they consider sympathetic to the sitting president.

 

  • With two terms, the focus has always been on re-election rather than service delivery. This is because an elected president is forced to refrain from making hard decisions that may end up killing his reelection chances; as certain progressive decision may send the country to a temporal recession (e.g. temporal job losses) before the positive end results are realized – fruits that may be realized long after the first or even the second term is long gone. A president not looking forward to a reelection will however not be shy from making tough calls.
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  • One-term presidency will be ending theft of public money. There is accelerated theft of public money in the last two years of a first term presidency because of the need to finance re-election. Financing a Presidential election is also very expensive so reducing the frequency of elections to once every 7 years will help reduce unnecessary spending of public funds on elections.

The justifications for a 7 year presidential term limit seem to be clear, but not everyone is happy with the proposal. Those opposed to the single 7 year term limit generally raise two issues:

  1. What happens when we elect a incompetent thief?
  2. A person who doesn’t have a reelection to look forward to will not be motivated to do anything.

The first point can be addressed by strengthening impeachment clauses. When anyone ascends to the office of the president, such a person should be given clear mandate and a strict legal regime to abide by, failure of which the Senate and the National Assembly can be called to act promptly by initiating an impeachment motion. The second concern is not a concern at all, as even in the current setup, there is no reason to expect a president to perform once reelected to the office. After reelection, what can motivate the president to execute his duties? Legacy? The same should work in a single 7 year term limit.

Given that the justifications for a single 7 year term limit are many and strong, and the only two objections against the 7 year term limit easy to dismantle, the proposal to change the constitution to implement the new paradigm should be supported by all well meaning Kenyans.

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It is important to mention that the beauty of a 7 year single term limit has attracted those in Raila Odinga’s camp, forcing them to proposal a similar arrangement in their proposal to the BBI team.

See also: Punguza Mzigo is worth your support

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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