BBI battle begins as Uhuru, Raila move to Bomas - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 26 October 2020

BBI battle begins as Uhuru, Raila move to Bomas

 

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies' no holds barred attack on proposals of the Building Bridges Initiative has set the stage for a major political showdown.

Today's formal launch of the BBI report is the beginning of a major political battle tipped to shape the referendum and the 2022 presidential contest.

Delegates drawn from the 47 counties converge at the Bomas of Kenya to witness the official unveiling of the report by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM chief Raila Odinga.

However, it remains to be seen whether Ruto will attend after his allies protested the DP was publicly humiliated during the launch of the first BBI report on November 27 last year.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany, who is Ruto's de facto spokesperson on political issues, said he had not received an invitation to attend the Bomas launch of BBI.

 “We will oppose the BBI referendum because it seeks to entrench tribalism through the creation of five posts at the top, our economy is bleeding and we cannot even afford a public vote to amend the Constitution,” he said.

“Apart from the constitutional amendment to create the post of PM and other positions, nothing warrants a referendum”.

Ruto and his lieutenants have attacked key proposals in the report, but Uhuru and ODM Raila are unlikely to back down.

On Sunday while campaigning in Kakamega county, Ruto said the BBI report as currently designed was only creating jobs for the political elite.

This was the same argument dismissed by President Kenyatta on Mashujaa Day as “parochial”.

"We should not give my suggestion the parochial interpretation of creating positions for individuals. I am only urging for a constitutional consensus that accommodates all communities in an election,” Uhuru said in Kisii on Tuesday last week.

Preparations at the Bomas of Kenya ahead of the official unveiling of the report by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM chief Raila Odinga on October 26, 2020.
Preparations at the Bomas of Kenya ahead of the official unveiling of the report by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM chief Raila Odinga on October 26, 2020.
Image: COURTESY

But Ruto insisted the conversation about amendments to the Constitution must be about ordinary people and not power sharing by leaders.

“The issues that concern million of Kenyans locked out by poverty and unemployment should be given priority over the issues that concern leaders, their demands and the power they want to share,” Ruto said.

He went on: “Unless we discuss inclusivity on the basis of the people who were locked out of the economic cycle by poverty and unemployment, that inclusivity will not be complete; it can't be inclusivity about leaders only but about the 40 per cent of Kenyans who live below the poverty line.”

Ruto took a swipe at Raila and warned against what he termed as intimidation and threats from people he said are driving the “reggae won't stop” narrative.

 “The reggae won't stop narrative is the language of dictators,” Ruto said in Matungu, Kakamega, in a jibe at the ODM leader, who has used the analogy to capture the BBI momentum.

The DP suggested that there is a need for a national conference to discuss and deliberate on the BBI proposals to incorporate views from all Kenyans.

“I want to request, on behalf of millions of Kenyans, that we have a decent conversation that is people-centred and all-inclusive as we discuss matters of the BBI report. Those proposals must be subjected to people's comments and recommendations so that we can carry every Kenyan on board,” the DP said.

Uhuru says the expansion of the Executive would end what he terms a zero sum game of winner-takes-all, responsible for divisive and bloody polls every electoral cycle.

Some of Ruto allies such as former Senate Deputy Speaker and Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki have come out openly to state he would oppose the referendum.

He says the report is meant to reward “ethnic chiefs”

“Simplistically assumes that if you reward the top five most populous ethnic communities (going by our voting propensities), the 39 communities constituting Kenya's ethnic minorities are inconsequential and the country will be politically inclusive, stable and prosperous,” Kindiki said.

Apart from expansion of the executive, Ruto’s allies say the BBI proposals create an imperial presidency with sweeping powers in the Executive.

They have also complained that the report will burden the taxpayer by expanding the size of Parliament.

“The 35 per cent transfer to counties is not only arbitrary and populist but is also not sustainable given no proposals to amend the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution to transfer some of the 35 functions of national government to counties,” Ruto’s adviser on constitutional affairs Korir Singoei wrote in the Sunday Nation.

“The most jarring proposal in the BBI amendment Bill relates to the Judiciary…What is certain is that the establishment of the judicial ombudsman appointed by the President to police the Judiciary and several other amendments focused on the Judicial Service Commission represent an implicit attempt to re-enact  total control by the Executive of the Judiciary. It’s a direct and most brazen attempt at destroying judicial independence and must not be allowed to stand.”

But the President who attended a church service in Nyeri steered clear of BBI promising to speak more about it at Bomas.

“Let’s be people who will commit to service. And by committing ourselves to service, all these other things will come and our country will prosper. Our country will grow, our country will have peace. That is our target. Let’s be remembered for the good that we have done and we will do. Let’s avoid issue that will bring us problems,”Uhuru said.

It has now emerged that Uhuru and Raila will roll out joint BBI rallies to market the report and lobby for national support in the coming days to counter opponents of the report.

Influential nominated MP Maina Kamanda said the BBI popularisation campaigns would be unveiled soon with the President and Raila expected to tour Coast and Central in two weeks time.

“The next steps to popularise the BBI report will begin when we will see the President and Raila tour the country to talk directly to Kenyans,” the ex-Starehe MP said.

The President is said to be preparing for major functions across his Mt Kenya turf to popularise the BBI report and neutralise Ruto's fortunes in the region.

Mt Kenya's overwhelming support for the BBI document would be key in cementing the Uhuru-Raila ties and strengthen prospects of having a succession deal ahead of the 2022 polls.

The President is already on an offensive to charm up the youth, Ruto's key support base, and hopes to market some youth-centred proposals in the BBI report to counter the second in command.

The report proposes the establishment of a commission for the youth and a four-year grace period for beneficiaries of the Higher Education Loans Board, major reliefs for the young population.

On Friday, President Uhuru met officials of the National Boda Boda Association to woo the millions of unemployed youth in the informal sector which Ruto has branded as 'hustlers.'

The DP has been giving the youth millions worth of boba bodas, car washing machines, sewing machines, water tanks salon accessories, carts and wheelbarrows as part of his economic empowerment programme.

The goodies which have been highly criticised by Uhuru and Raila as hand outs had consolidated the DP's grip on the youth in what had threatened the success of the BBI process.

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