BBI Holy Grail referendum quest will be arduous for Uhuru and Raila - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 6 November 2020

BBI Holy Grail referendum quest will be arduous for Uhuru and Raila


President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga are not at ease in pushing for a constitutional referendum to entrench the Building Bridges Initiative.

It was supposed to be a panacea, ushering in an era of equality and inclusiveness, among many other wonderful things.

Powerful opposition has been building against the proposed changes contained in the BBI report. Deputy President William Ruto has threatened to lead the 'no' campaigns against a referendum.

This is not the time, it doesn't address key problems, it's too costly and Kenyans have other grave economic issues to worry about, like Covid-19 - not changing government structure by creating new posts for cronies and further bloating the wage bill, they argue.

The rebellion could complicate the handshake principals' hopes of easy passage of the referendum expected by June 2021.

Threatening to reject the BBI report if it is not amended are some seasoned politicians, pastoralist communities, an MCAs’ forum, women's groups, people with disabilities and a section of civil society groups, including the Law Society of Kenya.

Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, his Narc Kenya counterpart Martha Karua and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu have called for the amendments to the report to iron out  contentious clauses.

However, a meeting of pro-BBI MPs co-chaired by Uhuru and Raila in Naivasha on Monday resolved to push for the adoption of the document without amendments - setting the stage for a showdown with the formidable 'no' phalanx.

“We, who support BBI, are not scared Kenyans will reject it. We are confident we will pass it as it is. The people who are now trying to negotiate for additional amendments were around for the last two years [when the taskforce was moving around],” Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a staunch BBI proponent, said.

Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, a supporter of BBI, said Raila and Uhuru enjoy the support of most Kenyans and urged them to ignore Ruto and other "naysayers".

"If you open BBI for amendments, we will amend the document forever. Uhuru and Raila should continue with their stewardship because they have the majority [of Kenyans on their side.]," he said.

Ruto has sent shockwaves through the BBI brigade with his ‘hustlers’ campaigns that have attracted large crowds, threatening to swamp the push to amend the Constitution.

The DP has embarked on hustlers’ empowerment programmes – dishing out wheelbarrows, sewing machines, handcarts among others, to youths and women's groups so they can start businesses.

These activities coupled with Ruto's rhetorical skills and appealing messages have made the country's second in command the icon of many youth and jobless people, known as the hustler nation.

These factors have made Ruto a force to reckon with in political mobilisation. He has not only enticed many people in his Rift Valley backyard, but across the country. That includes President Uhuru's Mt Kenya bastion.

Should he opt to brazenly oppose his boss and and team up with other dissenting voices - ANC's Musalia Mudavadi, Narc's Martha Karua, Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula and all other 'no' groups -  his camp will  give Uhuru and Raila a run for their money.

“Allowing Ruto to mount this campaign within his [the resident’s] party is very worrying. Uhuru needs to put order in his party,” political observer Peter Kagwanja said.

Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, a Ruto confidant, hinted at the DP leading the 'no' campaign and tore into the BBI as a partisan process.

“For two years, the country’s significant resources and attention have been wasted in a purely partisan process whose single objective is to prop one side in the oncoming Ruto-Raila presidential election duel,” Kindiki said.

“I know the President and Raila are worried to do a referendum before August 2020 because of the 2022 arithmetic. They want to do rehearsal before the 2022 General Elections,” he added.

During the launch of the report at the Bomas of Kenya on October 26, DP Ruto denounced the report. He cited at least five proposed changes in the report - including expanding the Executive - that he called retrogressive.

The proposal has been at the core of the President’s argument to cure the winner-take-all system and enhance inclusivity in government - leaving out disgruntled losers who have many followers.

The BBI report has proposed creation of a prime minister and two deputies - all appointed by the President.

“The President will appoint the PM and the two deputies from the winning coalition. And then we will have the runners-up being the leader of the opposition. The question I am asking myself is, have we sorted out the winner-takes-all question?” Ruto asked.

Ruto also rejected the proposal to give the President the powers to appoint the Judiciary Ombudsman, weakening of the Senate, placing the National Police Service under the control of the Executive as well as allowing political parties to nominate IEBC commissioners.

The DP spoke moments after Mudavadi and Ngilu called for another window of consultations to address the two-thirds gender rule stand-off and strengthen the Senate and independence of the Judiciary.

“The 70 positions in National Assembly should be given to women. We want the two-thirds gender rule to apply in the five positions at the Executive," Karua said.

Musalia vouched for a stronger Senate to handle devolution effectively and opposed the appointment of a Judiciary Ombudsman by the Executive.

“I emphasise that we look at these issues now so that by the time we reach the plebiscite we shall have reached a broad consensus,” he said.

On Tuesday, key pastoralist communities occupying at least 14 counties rejected the document, unless amended.

Leaders from the marginalised counties advanced at least 11 issues they have termed their 'irreducible minimums' that they want included in the BBI report.

“We will be lying to Kenyans and our parties if we say that the pastoralists’ family is happy with the BBI report as it is," Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said.

“The BBI report has reduced our citizens' gains on equity in resource allocation, representation, gender parity, needs of the persons with disabilities and protection of the community land,” the leaders said in a statement.

On Wednesday, county assemblies threatened to scuttle the BBI process if their demands are not incorporated in the report.

County assemblies are critical in the process since at least 24 are required to push through the proposed amendments.

Kajiado county assembly speaker Johnson Osoi said they had issues with the proposal on the ward development fund, allocations from the national government to counties and guaranteed minimum returns on agriculture, among other issues.

“A lot of money will come to counties and assemblies must be facilitated to provide oversight, as it happens for MPs. As things stand right now, county assemblies cannot even hire analysts or order special audits,” Osoi explained.

In addition, at least 21 women lawmakers allied to the DP have also demanded a review of the BBI report or they will oppose it. 

They threatened to lead the 'no' campaign in the referendum, saying the report has eroded gains secured for women. The MPs said the report goes against the inclusivity ideals stipulated in the 2010 Constitution.

They opposed scrapping of the 47 seats for women in the National Assembly. They said the report is not clearly stating how the two-thirds gender rule will be achieved.

PWDs led by nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura have termed the report a mockery to the lot, adding that rolls back all the gains made since 2010.

“This document has taken away all of our gains as people with disabilities.  All the gains that were made in the 2010 Constitution, as currently practiced, have been lost,” he said.

Karua said the proposed BBI constitutional Amendment Bill heralds the return of an imperial presidency that Kenyans rejected through the most consultative process, culminating in the 2010 Constitution.

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