The battle for the passage of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill now moves to county assemblies after electoral agency cleared over a million signatures for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Approval of 1.1 million signatures of the 4.4 million submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sets in motion the process to change the Constitution.
At least 24 assemblies of the 47 are required to pass the Bill before it goes to the National Assembly.
Yesterday's development comes amidst growing disquiet in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard even as he prepares to hold a meeting this weekend at Sagana Lodge with the region's political leadership.
Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have been lukewarm towards the initiative birthed of the Handshake between Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018.
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Junet Mohammed, the BBI secretariat co-chair yesterday welcomed IEBC’s clearance of the Bill, saying it has concluded the technical aspect of the referendum process and now ushers in the political part.
He disclosed that they had whipped MCAs to fast track the passage of the Bill and are seeking to have the exercise done within two weeks.
Eyes on Mt Kenya
“Now, one part of the process has been concluded with the conclusion on the signature verification exercise by the IEBC. We are now in the political process,” said Mohammed.
“We had prepared the county assemblies and they should be through within two weeks after which, the same will be transmitted to the two speakers of the bicameral House.”
Mohammed, who is also the National Assembly Minority Whip, remained optimistic that the Bill should be ready for tabling in the two Houses when Parliament resumes next month.
He said once parliament is through with the Bill, it will proceed to the public as he made reference to Section 11 of the Elections Act, which he argued guides the process.
“In the absence of the referendum law, there is the election legislation which address the issue of single and multiple questions. Whichever comes first will apply but there is no lacuna in law as far a referendum process is concerned.
“The political process has kicked off. We will henceforth be educating Kenyans on the details of the Bill and will marshal our political machinery to ensure it passes,” he said/
Wafula Chebukati, the IEBC chair, in his communication on the transmission of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to speakers of the 47 county assemblies confirmed that the signatures submitted by BBI Secretariat had met the required Constitution threshold of I million.
“The Commission, through interim verification of data captured as of January 19, 2021, has confirmed and is satisfied that the initiative has been supported by 1,140,845 registered voters,” stated Chebukati.
Citing Article 257 (5) of the Constitution, Chebukati said he submitted a copy of the draft BBI, to county assemblies for consideration within three months from yesterday. The letter was copied to speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate).
Senate Minority Leader James Orengo yesterday said they are likely to get support from 40 county assemblies because for the document to qualify for a referendum, it only requires the support of 24 out of the 47.
“The task is now before the 47 county assemblies and one can say without doubt that we will marshal more than the 24 needed to transmit the Bill to Parliament,” Senator Orengo said.
“There is no uphill task in passing BBI in Mt Kenya region by the county assemblies. The region’s supporters of the BBI should not be worried after the assemblies have passed the Bill.”
Political heavyweights and some of the elected leaders have held campaigns in several counties as they drum up support for the referendum.
Raila has in the past couple of days held a number of meetings to popularise the initiative and met university student leaders yesterday. Gideon Moi has also been to a number of counties to root for BBI.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany and Ruto ally said that a majority of Kenyans have already made up their minds about the document, stating that there was a general feeling that it does not address their concerns.
He called on the assemblies to listen to what the public is saying when considering the Bill. “Kenyans have already made up their minds on this document. What they are now waiting for is the opportunity to express it in the ballot. The feeling is that this document is bad,” he said.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said Tanga Tanga brigade will not go around the country to oppose the Bill. He said that they have made their reservations some of the clauses are known and it was time for the voters to decide.
BBI enjoys support of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s wing of Jubilee Party, Raila, Gideon, Wiper Party’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani National Congress’s Musalia Mudavadi.
The initiative also enjoys support of Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetangula and Maendeleo Chap Chap’s Alfred Mutua.
Ruto and his allies are, however, likely to give the initiative a cold shoulder in assemblies where they enjoy huge support.
“In the county assemblies, it will be a question of politics and not merits or demerits of BBI,” political analyst Barrack Muluka said.
He argues since the country's politic is 'regional', the Bill will easily sail through where political kingpins enjoy huge support.
“In Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya and Gusii’s Kisii and Nyamira counties where Raila commands near fanatical backing, the MCAs are just waiting to be told the way to go. In Mombasa, they will also just do what Raila says,” Muluka claimed.
In Migori, Speaker Boaz Okoth yesterday said the MCAs were ready to unanimously pass the Bill. Muluka, however, feels that the Bill could receive some opposition in some coastal counties where Ruto is believed to have made inroads.
Besides Mombasa, counties making up the coastal belt include Kwale, Lamu, Tana River, Taita Taveta and Kilifi.
Although Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya was elected on a Jubilee ticket, the assembly is dominated by ODM lawmakers. ODM is also dominant party in Kilifi and Tana River assemblies.
In Nairobi, analysts believe, BBI is likely to carry the day following partnership between ODM and Jubilee MCAs that helped unseat former governor Mike Sonko.
In Mt Kenya region, where Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata opened a can of worms by stating that BBI was unpopular, nominated MP Maina Kamanda believes things will change once Kenyatta goes to campaign for the document.
Mt Kenya counties include Kiambu, Muranga, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi where leaders allied to Ruto’s Tanga Tanga wing have fired a warning shot at BBI.
Rift Valley, which is Moi's and Ruto’s base, is likely to be a battleground between pro- and anti-BBI forces.
In Western Kenya, Muluka said, the Bill will easily sail through due to the backing Raila, Mudavadi and Wetangula have in Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia and Bungoma counties.