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BBI team mulls July referendum

By Moses Nyamori | April 18th 2021
Hon. Junet Mohammed, David Murathe, Francis Atwoli, Peter Kenneth, James Orengo, and Raphael Tuju at Ildamat, Kajiado. [Courtesy]

Proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) now mull a July referendum following a standoff occasioned by MPs’ demands to make amendments to certain proposals.

A high-level political meeting at Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli on Sunday resolved to adjust the timelines to accommodate the delays occasioned by the disagreement within the joint team of the Senate Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights and National Assembly’s Justice and the Legal Affairs Committee (JLAIC).

National Assembly Minority Leader Junet Mohammed and the BBI secretariat co-chair told The Standard that the meeting agreed to have the committee dispense with the matter within the next two days.

Junet said the joint team is set to have a meeting today where the members are expected to have a consensus on some of the contentious issues.

“We have agreed that the referendum should now be conducted in July. We expect the joint committee to dispense with the matter in the next two days,” said Junet.

“Once the committee is done, we will consult the House leadership if we need a special sitting or just wait for the May 4, when we are set to resume our sittings as the National Assembly,” he explained.

The initial timeline by the BBI secretariat was that Parliament dispenses the matter by April 6.

This was to pave way for two-month preparations by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for a referendum by June 6.

The two Houses are required to debate the report and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 before the document can proceed to the IEBC and subsequently go for a referendum.

On Sunday afternoon, Atwoli hosted Junet, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju, vice-chairman David Murathe and 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth at his Kajiado home.

Atwoli described the meeting as a political consultative engagement that discussed the country’s political landscape ahead of the planned referendum and 2022 General Elections.

“A consultative meeting does not have specific agenda. The issues of BBI and other social and economic-political issues were discussed were part of the many issues that we discussed in the round table meeting,” said Atwoli.

Although the Constitution states that Parliament has a ceremonial role in a popular initiative, the lawmakers have stalled the tabling of a report by the joint parliamentary committee on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) until some contentious issues are addressed.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi had warned that the House will discuss the Bill with or without the report by the committee.

The emerging crisis has split the Orange Democratic Movement's (ODM) legal fraternity into two rival camps, with one side led by Senate Minority Leader James Orengo and the other by lawyer Paul Mwangi, who served as Joint Secretary to the BBI.

Orengo is pushing for the reopening of the BBI document for fresh amendments, while Mwangi maintains any change to the document, “including the introduction of a mere comma,” will render BBI an illegal process.

It emerged from within Raila's circle that the president’s Karen visit to check on him after he announced that he tested negative to Covid-19 was to resolve simmering tension arising from the hard-line position taken by his allies to effect changes to the Bill.

Last month when the committee sought an extension to engage experts Prof Patricia Mbote and Collins Odote, ODM MPs took a different position in both Houses. Prof Mbote is a trainer at the BBI secretariat.

Kigano pushed for the establishment of a sub-committee comprising himself, MPs Atiende Amollo (Rarieda), Jennifer Shamala (Nominated), and Senators Omogeni, Orengo, and Naomi Waqo (Nominated) to seek services of experts to guide them on “weighty constitutional” matters.


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