Allies of opposition leader Raila Odinga have declined Deputy President William Ruto's call for dialogue over the BBI report ahead of the anticipated referendum.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta alluded that there is room to improve the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, Raila's allies now say the chapter for changes is long closed and the DP can only support or reject the document at the proposed referendum.
They say Ruto (centre) squandered his opportunity to give his views to the 14-member task force. On Thursday, Ruto called for consensus-building to avoid splitting the country into factions that are either in support or against the proposed constitutional amendments.
“If he wants to lead the No side, let him proceed without engaging us in delaying tactics. Let him resign as DP and go ahead to spearhead the no campaigns. We will face off with him in the campaigns. He should not try to intimidate, blackmail or delay us," said Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli.
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Atwoli said the DP’s decision to demand dialogue was akin to challenging the authority of his boss, President Kenyatta.
“He is part of this government; why is he opposed to the process initiated by his boss? He should not be making public demands for dialogue but should privately engage the president if he has some concerns,” he said.
ODM chair John Mbadi described the calls for talks as a political circus aimed at derailing the process so that there is no referendum before the next poll.
“The train has left the station and he can choose to support or reject the report in its current form. We are aware that he wants to take us in circles so as to delay the process,” Mbadi said.
“Who told him that his readiness for talks is part of the BBI process? We cannot allow for any further delay.”
The National Assembly Minority Leader said Ruto was using the demands to set the stage for opposing the proposed changes.
“It is clear that Ruto does not want the BBI report. There is no process that has been this consultative; not even the 2010 Constitution was this consultative,” Mbadi said.
Jubilee vice chair David Murathe told those pushing for debate to “forget as there is no room for reopening the document”.
“That will not happen. This thing has been out there for two years. There was the first report before the validation, where people were asked if there was anything they wanted changed,” Murathe said.
“What can happen now is framing of the document by Parliament and the Attorney General’s office so that we have a legal document. But there is no room for re-opening that document.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore, ODM secretary for political affairs Opiyo Wandayi, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi.
Kimunya said he has not seen any reason to build consensus on the report before the public exhaustively reads it.
The Kipipiri lawmaker — who is set to lead a group of MPs for a retreat to discuss the document — said the focus now should be for leaders to read and understand the document.
But Ruto's allies, led by Egeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, said all Kenyans have to be involved in the process of amending the Constitution.
“There is no Kenya A or Kenya B, everyone matters. As senators we believe that if we must amend the Constitution through the BBI then we must build consensus on a win-win document that unites the country. We say no to blackmail,” Murkomen said.
Cheptumo said it was unfair to say Ruto cannot suggest changes to the document because he did not give his views.
The former National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chair said it would be ironic to block a section of Kenyans from the process meant to unite the country.
“If you are not inclusive in dealing with the BBI process, then how do we expect to have a document that will unite us as one nation. It seems people are not bothered on the need to have everyone on board. We should not block divergent views in this process," Cheptumo said.
The lawmaker said some of the issues raised by Ruto on the role of the Senate, inclusivity and the police service are shared by millions of Kenyans.
Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju also supported the calls, saying they mirror the pleas by the president for a united country.
Tuju, who is a critic of Ruto, said the BBI process is supposed to unite the country and not divide it into factions for and against the document.
“I fully support those sentiments because they also reflect the speech of the president at Bomas of Kenya. The Handshake was a ceasefire deal when the country was at the edge; the BBI stems from that ceasefire, therefore it should unite Kenyans,” he said.
Maore however claimed there is a plot to derail the process by demanding a fresh debate on the document.
The lawmaker said the individuals who were now busy calling for consensus-building refused to give their views and instead chose to go around the country opposing the process.
“The issue of collecting views has been there for two years and some people ignored it. The calls for dialogue can be about other things but not the BBI document,” said Maore.
Ngunjiri said the DP should make up his mind on the document and wait for the referendum to cast his ballot either in support or against.
Wandayi described Ruto as insincere and out to derail the proposed referendum.
The planned legislators' retreat is set to take the first batch of 186 MPs and 48 senators through the document before they can hit the campaign trail to popularise it among the voters.