Kenya's Odinga Says Reviving Post of Premier May Ease Divisions

(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed to push for constitutional reforms to re-introduce the role of prime minister and further decentralize power, steps he said would help resolve divisions exacerbated by the East African nation’s disputed elections.

“The presidential system as currently exercised in Kenya is still a strong tool for exclusion,” Odinga, who last year failed in his fourth bid for the presidency, wrote in an opinion piece in the local Sunday Nation newspaper. An “obvious alternative” is for separate heads of state and government, with a president “typically elected indirectly” and a prime minister who leads the majority party or coalition in parliament, he said.

Kenya’s presidential system, under which the winner takes all, has been blamed for political tensions and post-election violence. Odinga held the post of premier from 2008 to 2013, as part of a deal to end two months of ethnic conflict after a disputed December 2007 vote that left more than 1,100 people dead.

Writing in the Sunday Nation, Odinga also suggested introducing 15 regional governments, adding a third tier of government to the national administration and 47 county ones. Fifteen regional blocs would mean “stronger devolution on both political and economic grounds” and be “in line with devolved political systems around the world,” he said.

Kenya’s troubled 2017 elections rattled the economy, the region’s largest, and caused months of political paralysis. While President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared victor after a repeat vote, opposition candidate Odinga boycotted the rerun and rejected the result. He later reconciled with Kenyatta and on April 30 they announced the formation of a joint team to implement development programs in the country.

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