What Uhuru, Raila told party leaders

POLITICS
By Roselyne Obala and Jacob Ngetich | February 26th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta and other political party leaders including Gideon Moi (KANU), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Raila Odinga (ODM), Charity Ngilu (NARC) and Mosses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga have set out the campaign roadmap for the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to be subjected to a public vote by May.

Yesterday, sources close to Uhuru, Raila and other political leaders invited to a meeting at State House, Nairobi, told The Standard discussions were held on the modalities of how to roll out joint tours countrywide to drum up support for the first amendment to the 2010 Constitution.

Those in attendance were Raila (ODM), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Charity Ngilu (Narc) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford-Kenya).

The leaders met a day after 41 county assemblies voted in favour of the Bill. Yesterday, Nandi voted to reject the proposed law, also referred to as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Kabarnet barred the National Assembly and Senate Speakers from admitting to the bicameral House the decision by Members of the Baringo County Assembly to reject the Bill. Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Mandera and Kilifi are now the only counties yet to take a vote on the Bill.

The pro-BBI leaders are set to hold a joint consultative meeting on March 9, with MPs and county leadership, which will coincide with the third anniversary of the famous handshake between Uhuru and Raila in 2018 that birthed the initiative.

According to sources privy to the discussions yesterday, the first stop will be the Coast region before the team heads to western Kenya for joint tours in support of the Bill.

Deputy President William Ruto, who had earlier attended the Thursday Cabinet meeting, snubbed the high-profile meeting at State House.

Dr Ruto has been ambivalent towards the push for constitutional change, saying its timing is inappropriate, especially at a time the country is battling other challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic. His allies have been openly critical of the Bill.

On Wednesday, the BBI secretariat co-chairs Dennis Waweru and Junet Mohamed told journalists that the team was in the process of identifying 10 top political leaders to spearhead campaigns in different regions. Junet, who is also the National Assembly Minority Whip, said the team was ready to hit the ground running.

“We will embark on a vigorous campaign that is going to shake every corner of this country. We will reach every village in this country, talk to every man and woman, telling him or her why this document is good for the country,” said Junet.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi disclosed that a technical team had been appointed by the two Speakers following attainment of the threshold of 24 assemblies in support of the Bill.

Mr Muturi and his counterpart Ken Lusaka are in the process of forming a joint committee to look into modalities of the Bill being introduced in the respective Houses. Mr Lusaka said they would give a clear roadmap on the process today.

The meeting at State House yesterday lasted about four hours, and came immediately after a Cabinet meeting.

“The leaders are tentatively working with May as the month to conduct the referendum. The leaders are set to hold joint tours to publicise the BBI Bill all over the country. They will soon release a tentative timetable as Parliament considers the Bill,” said a top government official privy to the meeting's deliberations.

According to a statement by State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo, the leaders were impressed with the MCAs' commitment to the process and surpassing of the 24 counties constitutional threshold.

“As our county representatives have shown, now is the moment for Kenyans to put aside partisan divisions and come together to build a better Kenya for ourselves, our children, and for generations of Kenyans yet to be born,” she said.

The political parties' leaders noted that over the last month Kenyans had witnessed first-hand the majesty and vibrancy of our constitutional democracy.

The Bill was transmitted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to all the 47 county assemblies, setting the stage for the First Amendment.

“Their bold action sets the foundation upon which Kenya shall advance inter-generational equity, realise gender parity, guarantee equal opportunities for all, and give each Kenyan a bigger slice of our shared prosperity,” said Mrs Mararo.

The leaders said as they would embark on the next stage in realising the First Amendment, and urged Kenyans to build on the country's renewed unity and greater political consensus for the enduring benefit of the nation "we all hold dear".

“BBI represents a once-in-a-generation break from the past; to resolve many longstanding national challenges that hold us back from realising a united and prosperous Kenya for all,” the leaders said in the statement.

They said the consideration of the Bill by 42 county assemblies affirmed that "the voice has thundered across the republic".

The leaders said the move was in resonance with the desire of all Kenyans to further strengthen the country's governance by breaking the cycle of divisive elections, fostering equitable distribution of resources by enhancing the share of revenues to county governments, and creating a more robust and responsive framework to secure opportunities for all Kenyans, including micro, small and medium enterprises.

“To ensure the voice of every Kenyan is heard and to enable every one of us to exercise their civic duty, we will undertake civic education to sensitize the entire Kenyan nation on the opportunities that lie for our homeland and nation as part of this initiative,” she stated.

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