Deputy President William Ruto yesterday braved a hostile audience to articulate his reservations on the proposed amendments to the constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Appearing calm and composed amid heckling from a section of delegates at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium, Dr Ruto faced down President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga to give his submissions, outlining his misgivings on the BBI report.
Dr Ruto, who has previously avoided openly antagonising his boss, did not mince his words in tearing the document to shreds.
The DP said the BBI report failed to address the agriculture sector which he said was the backbone of the economy.
"The single most important sector that drives our economy, contributing 25 percent directly to the GDP and, through manufacturing, another 24 percent and which employs almost 65 percent of the population is agriculture. We have a conversation on matters to do with productivity and proposals made on guaranteed minimum returns for our farmers," Dr Ruto said, citing wheat, sugarcane, coffee, tea, and dairy sectors as some of the areas that need attention.
"It is my humble submission that this (agriculture) is an area we can improve this document on. I have heard many speakers saying they have finished reading and we should move on. I want to tell them that we are not all at the same level when it comes to reading. Scientists like myself take a bit long as we do experiments and other things," Dr Ruto said.
The DP also had a bone to pick with proposals regarding the Judiciary: "Access to justice is one of the biggest challenges that we had before the 2010 Constitution. The law requires that there should be a High Court in every county, but, as we talk today, there are about five counties that do not have a High Court and many Kenyans have to travel far to look for justice."
He went on to say that, though the law provides that there be at least a court in every sub-county, a record160 of the units lack them: "The budget for the judiciary should be well defined. We need to operationalise the judiciary fund so that judiciary can establish more courts, hire more judges deploy more staff."
Dr Ruto also opposed proposals to have an ombudsman appointed by the executive to the judiciary: "We must be careful about the independence of the institutions. We are coming from a history where judges received telephone calls and held courts at night, but we do not want to get there."
On the proposed changes on the appointment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Dr Ruto faulted recommendations that political parties participate in the appointment of the officers, arguing that it will erode its independence.
Appointment of referee
He pointed out that there is no way teams participating in a football tournament can be allowed to take part in the appointment of a referee.
"My brother Raila Odinga is good at football, so let me try to ask. How fair will be the league in which the referee is appointed by teams and not all the teams, but some teams. How fair will this league be?" Dr Ruto posed amid shouts of "Fair! Fair!" from the delegates.
Dr Ruto also took issue with the proposal to establish a police council chaired by a cabinet minister: "The independence of our police force is under threat with this recommendation. The 2010 constitution was very clear that the police must act independently of any politicians whether they are in government or in the opposition."
"To recommend that we have a police council chaired by a cabinet minister is actually a derogation of the independence of the police," he said.
He warned that the country must be careful about its destiny with such proposals.
"Today, you may have the latitude to do what you think will be right as per your interests. Tomorrow, the boot will be on the other foot," he added.
On matters to do with devolution, even though Dr Ruto agreed with the proposal to increase resources by 35 percent, he said there is need to ensure the Senate has the necessary constitutional power to ensure those resources are available and used properly.