CORD has accused the State of frustrating its efforts of collecting signatures for the referendum.
A senior official at the Cord Secretariat told the Star yesterday government has deployed chiefs and their assistants across the country to buy up its referendum signature books so that the opposition does not reach the targeted million signatures.
The official said many areas are yet to return the books after the agents handed them over to chiefs.
He cited Migori, Mandera, Bungoma, and Kakamega as well as the five counties in Central Kenya and parts of the Rift Valley.
The failure by the officers to surrender the books is said to be the reason why Cord has yet to submit the signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification.
Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed confirmed the opposition has received complaints about chiefs and their assistants interfering in Okoa Kenya matters.
“Chiefs in some selected areas have been detailed to buy the referendum signature books from our members. Much as some books, even from Kakamega county, have not been returned by our officers, those so far surrendered are enough and they have the requisite numbers needed for the referendum,” Khalwale said.
“Those misusing chiefs to engage in these matters are wasting their time, because the referendum is still on. Those who think we are softening in the push for the referendum are missing the point.”
Junet said the officers who have hijacked the books have been issued a two week ultimatum to surrender them to the Cord Secretariat.
However, the claims were dismissed by Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, who accused the opposition of not having a clear idea of where they want to go.
“These are people with no clear focus, and they can say anything. They have realised they will never get the requisite signatures to call for a referendum,” he said.
Kamanda said Cord had formed a bad habit of blaming and accusing the government on virtually anything whenever it does not get its way, warning such a tendency is not good for the stability of the nation.
Khalwale said the opposition coalition will push on because the referendum was borne out of the failure by the Jubilee administration to heed initial calls for national dialogue.
He said the referendum was a consequence, not a condition, of the failed dialogue demanded by the opposition last year.
The two legislators spoke yesterday, even as some within Cord announced it might consider deferring the referendum until after the 2017 polls should the ruling Jubilee coalition heed renewed calls for national dialogue and show commitment to fixing non-referendum issues.
ODM chairman John Mbadi yesterday told the Star dialogue would sort out and identify issues that do not necessitate a referendum, so that they are fixed through legislative and administrative channels.
In an apparent departure from the hardline stance previously maintained by the opposition, Mbadi said Cord is ready to engage Jubilee in constructive talks to build consensus on national challenges and suggest solutions.
“Some of the issues Cord has raised can be solved through simple, ordinary legislation. Others, for them to be actualised, you need a referendum. Some, depending on how we agree, can be deferred,” the Suba MP said.
“It is a possibility of give and take. There are things we can quickly dispose of, like insecurity, gender representation, exclusion and cost of living, without a referendum.”
He said if the national talks conclude that a referendum is inevitable then leaders will build consensus on the appropriate time to hold the plebiscite.
“I am not ruling out a referendum – but we can have one that is not divisive. Neither Jubilee nor Cord should set ultimatums and preconditions.”
ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba urged Jubilee to accept the spirit of dialogue, “not as an event but as a culture” in which leaders cross the political dividing lines consult on matters of the national interest.
“We are not talking of an event over a cup of tea. The culture of dialogue places obligations on all of us – the opposition and even more premium on government – to demonstrate goodwill and the commitment to consult,” the Budalang’i legislator said.