President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s tight grip over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) ace card has sent the initiative adversaries sprawling in political confusion.
In the wake of their covert moves, Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have been forced to adopt contrasting positions with regard to the referendum question, as they buy more time for clarity in the coming days.
Adding to the confusion is a myriad of dilemmas brought about by the alternate Punguza Mzigo Bill, succession politics and Kenyatta legacy among others. As BBI retreated on Wednesday to write a final report, all eyes were on the two ‘brothers’ to give an hint of what to expect.
The BBI’s Vice Chairman, Adams Oloo, in an interview with Sunday Standard said their report would be out on or before their October deadline.
“We are now working on the data collected, we had our teams processing the views as we went across the country so it will not take us long collating and producing the final report,” said Dr Oloo.
But as the task force burns the midnight candle to deliver their report on the mandate, the focus now shifts to Uhuru and Raila on what next once they receive the report from the team they unveiled on March 9, 2018 during the famous handshake. Creation of extra positions in government, the fractured electoral body, uncertain public reception, the legal bottlenecks and the politics after possible referendum are some of the cards President Kenyatta and Raila are keeping close to their chests.
“For Uhuru, BBI was to unite Kenyans and may not necessarily result in a referendum but for Raila, the motive was to have a vote that will create the premier position, and therefore all was clear,” Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale said.
Duale said the dilemma for Raila is that should he lose the vote to create the prime minister position, he will have nothing to stand on.
“I like the consistency with Raila, he knows what he wants. I even support him on the parliamentary system of government, but if he losses this referendum, it will be doom for him because he has put all his hopes there,” Duale said.
In an earlier interview, Paul Mwangi, the joint secretary for BBI, noted that most of those who have presented their views suggested that an expanded executive at the apex of the country would be a solution because Kenyans would feel included in the sharing of the national cake.
This is where the dilemma lies for the ‘political brothers’.
The Aukot Bill seeks to completely do the opposite and clip the seats at the executive. This offers a duel of some sort with the BBI.
“Uhuru and Raila’s BBI is dead on arrival. It’s a secret society concoction, no one understands their intention. Most Kenyans are in the dark on their plans and that is how it will boomerang on them,” said Mutahi Ngunyi, a political analyst.
Ngunyi said the process to the formation of BBI and its membership was not inclusive and public perception will not be kind to it. “It looks like something that is meant to preserve the two,” he said.
Punguza Mzigo directly offers a big challenge for the marketing of the BBI, Ngunyi said, if they present a report that seeks to open up more positions.
Kenyans will then be offered the opportunity to debate on cutting the cost and those pushing for the increase. According to Ngunyi, this will offer Uhuru and Raila a hard ball to play.
The battle between the Punguza Mzigo narrative and the one of possible increase of seats could offer a moral challenge for Uhuru who has repeatedly argued that the government did not have money.
While speaking during the opening of the Nakuru County Assembly building, Uhuru asked governors who are in a stalemate with the national government over division of revenue that the country has no money.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati has in the past said a referendum on the Constitution will require about Sh18 billion.
The national government is battling with counties over a difference of Sh19 billion.
Annother big challenge is that IEBC is handicapped and is not in a legal position to hold a national vote. Chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in the National Assembly William Cheptumo said they are in the process of putting IEBC into an operational mode.
As it was, Cheptumo said, the IEBC’s ability to hold a national vote is contentious.
“We are in the process of putting up a panel that will recruit the commissioners of the electoral body. Once we are done, they can have the capacity to hold the referendum,” said Cheptumo.
Notably, Uhuru still has less than three years to deliver on his pledges. The fears in his circle is that a referendum before the end of his term would distract him form delivering on his legacy projects.
“This will immediately set in motion the campaigns that would easily derail the Big Four agenda. There will be full blown politics immediately if a referendum comes,” said Ngunyi.
Political analysts say immediately the plans for a referendum are announced, there will be no turning back. A referendum, they say, will set the mood for 2022 campaigns.
“It must be one of the biggest headaches for Uhuru. In as much as he wants to change the constitution, he clearly knows that there will be formations that will blur any meaningful developments,” said Javas Bigambo, a political analyst argued.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda thinks otherwise.
“We want to clear with the referendum the soonest so that Uhuru can continue to deliver his promises. Any further delay will continue to cause anxiety anyway,” said the MP.
Kamanda’s position is oblivious of the fact that there is resistance from some quarters, including that of the Deputy President William Ruto who has publicly indicated that it is “too early” to change the 2010 constitution.
On July 21, Ruto, in a TV talk show, said his support for the handshake was pegged on the fact that it had managed to cool down political temperatures.
“BBI was about bringing people together and eliminating the perceptions of hate and negativity ethnicity. It is not a replacement of the Constitution or the legal framework that exists,” he said. According to Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, those undertaking the BBI are taking Kenyans for a ride.
“The 2010 Constitution was the most consultative. If they want to relook the law, they should go back to the archives and listen to Kenyans views instead of wasting time trying to get comments from a few Kenyans,” said Shollei.
Others say the BBI initiative is a tool to keep Raila busy. Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi argued that the President was not keen on changing the constitution.
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