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Ruto open to calls for referendum as rivals clash over BBI way forward

By The Standard | November 30th 2019 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Deputy President William Ruto during a past event.

The just released Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force report has opened a new battlefront for politicians who are now sharply divided on what route the document should take.

Yesterday, Deputy President William Ruto said he welcomed the proposal for a referendum, but cautioned that such a move would be best done after a consensus is arrived at to avoid dividing the country.

Ruto, however, insisted that the report’s recommendations could be addressed through a legislative process, while other proposals can be actualised through government policies.

“We have read it (report) and there are some parts of it that could be implemented through commissions, policies and if there shall be a referendum, then it would be best we develop a consensus so that the process does not become divisive,” said Dr Ruto, while attending a thanksgiving ceremony for nominated MP David Ole Sankok at Enkare-Ng’iro in Narok South.

“If there shall be clauses that will need a referendum, let us go to it as a united people. Let us avoid the issues of hate, division, and such threats like there will be a Tsunami and such. We have experienced poll chaos in every election and we should avoid that route,” he added.  

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Saturday Standard established that a group allied to Ruto wants the document to be processed through the National Assembly and formulated into a Bill, a move that will give legislators the final say on the fate of the report.

Setting conditions

This group is said to favour a process where the document will be formally introduced in the National Assembly and placed before the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee, chaired by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, which will then come up with the Bill to be tabled in Parliament.

But it is this route that MPs allied to ODM leader Raila Odinga, and by extension the faction in Jubilee that is supporting the ‘Handshake’, are against as they claim that their opponents are keen on mutilating the recommendations once the Bill is before the National Assembly.

Raila on Thursday maintained that the recommendations should be adopted through a referendum.

Yesterday, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale faulted the ODM leader over his opposition to the parliamentary process.

“From where I sit, I think Raila, who was a co-owner of the BBI, does not want this document. Maybe it did not come out as he expected it to and that is why he is now giving these conditions, he just wants to thwart the whole thing,” said Duale.

Leaders openly differed over calls for a referendum at a function in Kirinyaga.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria clashed with the Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba after he dismissed those calling for a referendum.

It all started when Mr Kuria told the gathering that there was no logic in the country spending billions to take the document back to the public when they had already given their views on the same.

“It was just the other day we spent Sh500 million collecting views on the same initiative. Why would we again want to spend more on a referendum when we can easily get everything done through Parliament where we are the people’s representatives?” posed Kuria.

But Ms Wamuchomba dismissed the parliamentary route claiming that MPs could not be trusted to undertake the process as they can be compromised.

“We cannot allow this process to be left to these political thugs and it should be left to the people who are supreme on matters Constitution,” she said.

The Woman Reps remarks attracted the fury of MPs Gichimu Githinji (Gichugu) and Wangui Ngirichi (Kirinyaga Woman Rep), who were attending a harambee in aid of Gathuthini Hope Foundation organised by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i was in attendance.

“By simply expressing our democratic rights to state how we feel the BBI should move, and supporting that it comes through Parliament, does not make us political thugs,” Ms Ngirichi said.

In Narok, while the DP appeared to be open to the referendum, his allies vehemently opposed it and instead rooted for the parliamentary process.

Among those who accompanied the DP were Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at and MPs Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Nyandarua Woman Rep Faith Gitau, Narok Woman Rep Soipan Tuya, Narok East MP Lemanken Aramat, Didmus Barasa (Kiminini) and Sankok.

“The document is good but the problem is that these people (opposition) have a tendency of fighting institutions and commissions anytime the results fail to favour them. If it goes to referendum, we are not certain they will accept the outcome,” said Mr Ngunjiri.

Across the country, leaders expressed different opinions about the report. 

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, MPs Richard Onyonka and Marwa Kitayama rooted for a referendum.

“We should forget calls to have the report taken to Parliament because the moment you do that, this thing will go nowhere. Kenyans must have the last say on the document. We cannot entrust the report with MPs,” said Mr Oparanya.

But National Assembly Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali, MPs Joash Nyamoko, Sylvanus Osoro, Caleb Kositany, Cornelly Serem, and Senator Samson Cherargey supported the parliamentary process.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the matter could easily end up in the Supreme Court to give a verdict on how the report should go.

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