Raila, Ruto tussle over referendum question, allies brace for battle - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 8 February 2021

Raila, Ruto tussle over referendum question, allies brace for battle


As the county assemblies pick up the BBI Bill for debate this week, political rivals William Ruto and Raila Odinga are already clashing on the final referendum question.

After choosing not to lead the ‘No’ campaign, Ruto allies have now shifted focus to push for a multiple-choice referendum, an option Mr Odinga sees as a cowardly way out for the DP.

The feeling in the DP’s camp is that the BBI Bill will sail through the county assemblies anyway, — pushing him to play it safe by not leading the ‘No’ camp, but also not joining the ‘Yes’ team.

The multiple-choice referendum debate, therefore, is seen by his allies as a possible way to avoid the case of throwing away the baby with the bathwater — an idea the team believes will have buy-in from Kenyans as Parliament begins debate on the Bill when it resumes this week.

A multiple-choice referendum, however, will be decided by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) at the tail-end of the process after it has gone through county assemblies, the Senate and the National Assembly.  


Yesterday, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, a new-found Ruto ally, said the best way for the BBI was a multiple-choice plebiscite.

“Put a choice in how we vote so that we choose the things we want. For example, no one is going to say No to the proposal to devolve 35 per cent, as well as the proposed 70 new constituencies,” Mr Nanok said in a church function in Lodwar attended by Mr Odinga yesterday.

The ODM leader dismissed the idea as making the referendum too cumbersome for the average voter, especially if the DP’s demand that the plebiscite be held alongside the 2022 poll is upheld.

“If you ask illiterate voters to vote on these questions when they’re already making six choices in elective positions in a General Election, it will take them an hour or two to finish voting,” Mr Odinga fired back at the Ruto team in Lodwar.

“How many months, then, will it take us to finish a General Election? Just go out there and say ‘No’. Do not lie to Kenyans. It’s not possible to have a multiple-choice referendum in an election.”

Having been in the ‘No’ camp in the 2005 referendum, which boosted Mr Odinga’s ratings before the 2007 polls, the DP joined the church to lead another ‘No’ campaign in 2010.

'No' campaign

Even though he lost, the 2010 ‘No’ campaign placed the DP on a path that led him to a coalition with Uhuru Kenyatta, which went on to win the 2013 presidential election.

But now, the DP sees a ‘No’ campaign in the BBI referendum as a winner only for his opponents, who will no doubt drain his resources ahead of a 2022 presidential run.

“If the pro-BBI team stops a multiple-question referendum, Dr Ruto won’t lead any campaign like he did in Msambweni,” Kimilili MP Didimus Barasa, another Ruto ally, said.

Former National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali said the DP camp will not let go of their push for a multiple-choice referendum.

“The BBI is not a 100 per cent bad. The law making process is a give-and-take situation. That’s why we wanted them to give Kenyans an opportunity to pick what they want and reject what they do not need,” Mr Washiali, the Mumias East MP, said.

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and his Keiyo South counterpart Daniel Rono, both allied of the DP, said the camp will not marshal ward reps across the country to shoot down the Bill, another key indication of the DP’s decision not to focus too much on being the face of the ‘No’ camp.


But while Mr Sudi and Mr Rono said the DP was not interested in swaying the MCAs’ opinions on the BBI, the second-in-command has, however, been meeting ward reps from different parts of the country.

This as his lieutenants — including Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Mr Sudi — also separately met ward reps in Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, respectively.

The DP has opposed the creation of the Office of the Judiciary Ombudsman, while calling for the retention of the 47 woman rep positions as well as the proposed 47 women senators.

The DP has, however, celebrated the amendments in the BBI that deleted a proposed Kenya Police Council, converted proposed 70 additional seats to new constituencies, as well as deleted a provision to have electoral commissioners nominated by political parties.

DP Ruto has recently scoffed at a proposal to devolve 35 per cent of national revenue to the counties, saying, the government is currently unable to meet the 15 per cent minimum threshold set in the Constitution.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said the DP was uncomfortable with the proposal because it sought to devolve more funds to the counties.

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