Uhuru: I had intelligence Kenya was going down the drain

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the referendum Bill and national signature collection drive at KICC.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has told of intelligence briefs that convinced him that a handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 was the only way to prevent Kenya from being brought to her knees.

"If there was no handshake, this country would have been brought to its knees," said the president.

The president said the March 9, 2018  rapprochement with ODM leader Raila was not his first one because he had previously struck a  similar deal with his would-be deputy William Ruto at one stage after the 2008 post-election violence.

Speaking during the official launch of the Kenya Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and national signature collection drive at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Uhuru urged Kenyans to endorse the BBI report as it seeks to strengthen the 2010 Constitution and was a bridge to peace and prosperity that Kenyans need it desperately.

“The need to change our Constitution has been with us for some time. We need to strengthen the 2010 Constitution together. We are only amending it, not changing it. The first of many to come over time as Kenyans change and evolve,” he said.

The president told Kenyans not to treat the document as an enemy since it addressed the problems that the country faced.

“This document is alive, it supposed to treat the challenges we face as a country, let us not treat it as an enemy. Let us come together,” Uhuru said adding that  "the tree of a nation is watered with a constant stream of ideas" and  that "history is a graveyard of nations and empires that died by digging their heels and resisting change."

Nation-building, he explained, "was work in progress."

President Uhuru added that the bill had addressed gender parity among other things geared to having a peaceful country.

“Women will comprise 50 per cent of all senators making them directly involved in making a decision on how 35 per cent of National resources are spent,” he said.

He urged political leaders and Kenyans to adhere to Covid-19 protocols during the collection of signatures.

Raila, who had promised to lead Kenyans to Canaan, the promised land, after signing the BBI form, said Kenyans had edged closer.

“We have trekked through the difficult days of hatred and division, we have gone through the wilderness of anger and marginalization, we can see the promised land ahead. But the promised land will never come to us, we have to go to it,” he said urging Kenyans to drum their support on a document that was promising to country’s future.

“We’re opening a new chapter of the book we started writing in March 2018. I appeal to patriotic Kenyans to come out in record numbers and append their approval in record time so that we move to the next chapter.”

He rejected the notion by a section of politicians and religious leaders that the bill was creating an imperial president. Neither was it interfering with Judiciary independence, he added.

“The Ombudsman will be interviewed by a panel and three names be submitted to the President who will pick one and send to parliament for vetting and finally be appointed by the President. How does that erode the independence of the judiciary?” he posed.

He further said that the common mwananchi problems were legislative matters and not constitutional.

Before the launch, there was a video presentation on previous political campaigns that pushed the country into chaos and which later led to the birth of a handshake -- the political union between Uhuru and Raila that sired BBI.

Significantly, the first person to sign on an e-board that was erected at KICC was Emily Wanjiku, a businesswoman. The document has been billed to address the problems of Wanjiku. In Kenyan political parlance Wanjiku means "ordinary citizen".

She was followed by Joseph Wambai from North Rift,  Nantano Nampara and Edward Wekesa.

Various political leaders thereafter appended their signatures: They were:  Isaac Ruto (Chama Cha Mashinani), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), Alfred Mutua (Maendeleo Chap Chap), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Governors Hassan Joho and Charity Ngilu.

The Council of Governors' chair Wycliffe Oparanya was signed on behalf of governors.

The launch of the signature collection was initially scheduled for Thursday last week but was postponed, with the Secretariat citing late completion and publication of The Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 by the Government Printer.

The BBI Secretariat team led by co-chairs Junet Mohamed and Dennis Waweru has set its eyes on achieving at least four million signatures within one week after the launch.

The launch, got a green light yesterday after Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) approved the proposed format for the collection of signatures.

According to the proposed format, a registered voter will have to fill in their name, identity or passport number, county, constituency, ward, polling station, mobile number, an email address and a signature or thumbprint.