Uhuru, Ruto set stage for BBI battle ahead of June referendum - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 2 January 2021

Uhuru, Ruto set stage for BBI battle ahead of June referendum


President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have set the stage for a showdown over the BBI referendum that is tentatively scheduled for June.

In his New Year's message, the President asked Kenyans to prepare for the vote on the proposed changes to the 2010 Constitution, changes he believes will cement his unity bid with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The BBI proposes an expanded Executive which assures those who finish second in a presidential race of a spot in government.

The Official Leader of Opposition is being touted as a fallback for poll losers, envisioned to end the tension that follows the current scenario where the winner takes everything.

There is also proposed the posts of Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and ministers drawn from among Members of Parliament.

President Kenyatta asked Kenyans to treat 2021 as the year of the first amendment, saying the country is in a constitutional moment.

The President said his reason for rushing the changes contained in the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 is to ensure there would be no political tensions and violence before and after the 2022 General Election.

“The proposed first amendment to our Constitution in 2021, I believe, is a bold path that seeks to lay the foundation for a more just, more inclusive, more equitable and more prosperous Kenya. It also seeks to make right our politics by eliminating winner-takes-all and replacing it with we-all-win,” President Kenyatta said.

The President said 2021 will be the year “of rebuilding,  re-taking lost territory and of bold decisions”, calling on Kenyans to embrace the proposed changes.

 “As I said in my Madaraka Day as well as my Mashujaa and Jamhuri Day addresses this year, the country is staring at a constitutional moment. And you all know that in a constitutional moment, the soul of the nation is constantly in turmoil. More so over elections and the perpetual quest for regime change,” he noted.

But on the other hand, DP Ruto and his lieutenants say it would be insensitive for the handshake duo to push for the vote amidst the woes of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They want the revival of the economy and addressing job losses occasioned by coronavirus prioritised.

Ruto and his troops have argued that if there is a need for change of the Constitution, then the referendum should be held alongside the 2022 election.

They argue that to push for a referendum amid the pandemic and a struggling economy, which they say is on the "verge of full-scale collapse", is insensitive leadership.

Speaking during the homecoming ceremony for the recently elected Msambweni MP Feisal Badder on Thursday, Ruto insisted that it is time to adopt a bottom-up management approach that will prioritise the needs of the ordinary people.

He said there was a need to change the current economic model to incorporate more small and medium-sized businesses and create more jobs for Kenyans.

Even though the DP did not speak directly on the BBI, he said in his New Year message that Kenyans should work together.

"Together, let us work hard and do our best to define the New Year as our moment of rebirth, a time to shed our old ways, adjust our plans, align our priorities and embrace new possibilities in making our lives, our communities and our nation more prosperous, secure and  joyful than ever," Ruto said.

The DP's efforts, political analysts say, should have the BBI proponents worried.

Dr Charles Nyambuga, a political commentator from Maseno University, said it was time other parties also hit the ground "or they bid BBI and the presidency goodbye."

"They (Ruto's rivals) have left the guy for too long. If they don't hit the ground, the DP will beat them in the race. They might as well bid the presidency goodbye.

"He (Ruto) is a threat. For some reason, he has massive support among the small people. You move around the country, there are sporadic chants of hustler."

Nyambuga said the BBI team needs to shake the ground and be on the move. "They went to bed, they should now wake up."

Even so, Ruto's men insist the time for heightened political competition is yet to come.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said the country’s economy is “in ICU” and how to revive it should be prioritised.

Nanok who accompanied the DP to Msambweni wondered why Uhuru is pushing for a referendum when already Treasury has issued several warnings that the country is heading to tough financial times. 

“We have been informed that there is no money for counties, since August, only about five counties have received their money. Treasury CS has already said from February, civil servants will not have salaries. What is of priority to Kenyans, service delivery or BBI? Economy or BBI?” the outgoing governor posed.

Nanok, a former top ODM official, called on MCAs to reject the BBI bill once it is taken to the 47 counties for approval.

He asked Kenyans that MCAs who will vote in support of the Bill that is proposing among other things expansion of Parliament and the Executive should be punished by not being reelected in 2022.

“If BBI bill will come to your assemblies, then first remember you have been elected by Kenyans, listen to what they are saying. If they are saying no, go and vote no to the bill in the assembly. If they refuse to vote no, retaliate in 2022 by voting them out,” he said.

He added, “That is very critical because the priority of the Kenyan people is about survival during such very terrible economic times brought about by Covid-19 together with uncontrolled borrowing of loans. Let’s us reject the direction some people are trying to drive us into.”

Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali criticised Uhuru for prioritising BBI when Kenyans are facing challenges accessing health services and struggling to raise school and college fees for their children.

“Surely, even if some people are desperate to ensure their political and economic interests are taken care of in BBI referendum, they should at least have a heart for the common mwananchi. Kenyans are thinking of how to take their children to school and someone is talking of none important BBI politics? Surely, this is a case of wrong prioritization,” Washiali told the Star.

On Wednesday Cotu in the wake of high taxes coming to effect said the Jubilee regime should stop allocating money on projects that can wait.     

“The government must stop spending on unnecessary projects that have no immediate requirement. It is a fact you cannot kill Kenyans while telling them you are building roads for them because they need to be alive to use the same roads. The government must, especially now, learn how to be less ambitious on some of its development projects,” Cotu said in a statement.

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