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Uhuru, Raila stir Kisumu in first BBI referendum rally

By Standard Team | October 23rd 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground now renamed Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports complex on October 22, 2020. The duo drummed up support for the BBI report in Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Kisumu was yesterday brought to a standstill as President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga stormed the city for the first public rally since receiving the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

Covid-19 regulations were thrown out of the window as residents poured into the streets to welcome the duo who had a series of events in town before the rally.

Yesterday, Uhuru said the proposals contained in the report could be put together and subjected to a referendum as a package signalling a clash in the power play.

Speaking to an excited crowd in Kisumu town, the President said they would not go for piecemeal reforms, but instead undertake holistic reforms as per proposals in the report that the two leaders unveiled in Kisii on Wednesday.

The BBI report is expected to be officially launched on Monday at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

"This must be taken as a package, we want to address the matter in totality, instead of prescribing Panadol to a malaria patient and eventually continue to have the patient ailing, it is time we put things in order once and for all," said Uhuru.

To show his resolve to an anticipated referendum, the president said although he knew that some of the proposals would be addressed administratively and others through legislation, there was need to put the changes together and share it with Kenyans to decide.

He said BBI is the solution to Kenya's historic problems and asked all leaders to come to the table and address issues together instead of talking at each other.

Uhuru had on Wednesday evening jetted into Kisumu after two days engagement in Kisii and Nyamira counties where he presided over the Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 20.

The President began his day with a meeting with elected, religious and youth leaders at Yatch Club, where discussions on BBI referendum dominated.

By 7 am, police had already begun clearing the roads from Kisumu State Lodge through Jomo Kenyatta highway, Kakamega Road and Mamboleo-Muhoroni Road, leading to Mamboleo Show Ground where the President was to lay a foundation stone for construction of Jomo Kenyatta International Sports Centre.

By 11am, the President, accompanied by Raila, left the State lodge in a convoy which snaked through the town. All this time, President Kenyatta stood through his car sunroof, waving at the multitude that had turned up to welcome him.

The convoy, driving at a snail's pace, did the five-kilometre stretch from town to the show ground, with the presidential security relaxing security measures thus allowing the public to come closer to the motorcade.

At the showground, the President laid the foundation stone for the construction of the stadium, before giving a short speech, and left for Uhuru Business Park where he assessed ongoing construction of a 5,000 capacity modern market.

By 3pm, Uhuru and Raila retreated to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Centre where thousands of people were waiting.

At the venue, the residents yearning for a clear glimpse of the Head of State, overwhelmed the security, forcing Raila to intervene to try to control the crowd.

He spent about five minutes ordering both the security and crowd to sit down so as to have order inside the dais.

And when the duo stood up to speak, the ground rose in thunder. The President indicated that the meeting was just a preliminary engagement with the public ahead of the upcoming vigorous BBI referendum rallies.   

He charged the crowd when he mentioned that ‘nothing gives me peace of mind than the handshake with Raila’, noting that he is out to ensure the handshake journey is complete through delivering constitutional reforms.

Uhuru also extended an olive branch to his deputy and critics of BBI to join the brigade for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Messages of unity, peace and development dominated his speech even as he confirmed that the quest to change the Constitution was inevitable.

Ruto has been a strong critic of the BBI process and has been rallying his troops to mobilise Kenyans to reject the document.

Yesterday, however, Uhuru told jubilant crowds that the process is aimed at uniting all Kenyans.

In indirect reference to his deputy and BBI critics, the President said there is need for all Kenyans to come on board in the quest to improve the country.

“We do not want anyone outside the house. A leader sits down with his colleagues and dialogue,” said Uhuru.

He also appealed to critics of the process to share their views so that they can be incorporated and challenged them to shelve their personal ambitions for the benefit of the country.

He urged them to learn from the relationship he had built with Raila which he noted is now bearing fruits and has it has brought peace.

“If there is an issue you feel we have left out, tell us so that we can include it but let us not insult each other,” he said.

The president also urged leaders to drum up support for the document which he claimed is bound to put the country into a positive trajectory across all fronts.

He said the document had captured almost everything the country has struggled to shake off for several years.

“What is the problem if we increase funding to counties to 35 per cent? What is the problem if we resolve the issue of two-third gender rule? What is the problem if we create a government where all Kenyans feel they are also part of,” he posed.

Raila challenged Kenyans to back the process, saying the BBI train has already gathered speed and a referendum will become a reality in the coming days.

He urged county assemblies in his Nyanza backyard to back the process and set the pace for other county assemblies to pass the document unanimously.

Other leaders in the rallies Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Senate Minority Whip James Orengo and Homa Bay Women Rep Gladys Wanga, also threw their weight behind the push to change the Constitution.

[Kevine Omollo, Harold Odhiambo and Kepher Otieno]

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