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Ruto, allies back to drawing board as No campaign looms

By Standard Team | November 4th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Allies of Deputy President William Ruto have been sent back to the drawing board a day after proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) appeared to shut the door for amendments to the document.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga met 300 legislators allied to them in Naivasha on Monday, where members agreed to present the document to Kenyans for a referendum before June next year.

This was despite dissenting voices, largely allied to the DP, that are now toying with the idea of leading ‘NO’ campaigns across the country or abstaining from the process altogether.

Ruto, while hosting politicians and professionals from Lower Eastern region at his Karen home on Monday, called for consensus on the report to incorporate divergent views.

“We should find a mechanism to bring together all divergent views on the BBI report. It is possible for us to agree on the contentious issues therein so that we can move the country forward. We cannot unite Kenya through divisive tactics,” he said.

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But the door for negotiations appears to have been shut following the stance taken by those present at the Naivasha meeting, with the DP’s team now thrown back to the drawing board to chart their next move.

Yesterday Ruto remained quiet on whether he would join his boss to drum up support for the report. Instead, he cancelled a series of rallies earlier planned for Ukambani, citing rising Covid-19 cases.

“The upsurge in Covid-19 cases strongly indicates that a second wave may be in the offing. For this reason I have decided to significantly scale down my public engagements until further notice. The empowerment meetings for this weekend in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni are postponed,” Ruto tweeted.

Yesterday, some legislators allied to him said they would have no option but to oppose the planned referendum.

“They have decided to chest thump and ignore issues raised by the DP that touch on the ordinary mwananchi. If we are ignored, then we are left with no option but to oppose BBI,” said Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono.

Rono said their team would, through a series of meetings, tell citizens to reject the document.

“We have numbers of the hustler nation countrywide, and we will sell a narrative that will see the BBI draft rejected. We are giving an ultimatum of 14 days to make sure views of all citizens are taken and included in the document,” he said.

Aldai MP Cornelly Serem said they would reject the document if it is “forced” on citizens without amendments.

“We are meeting soon to decide on the next course of action, but I can tell you that we will not support a document that does not take the interests of all Kenyans at heart. We are planning to go round the country and urge Kenyans to refuse to take part in the referendum,” Serem said.

But a legislator from the Rift Valley who did not want to be named said the “BBI report is a good document that will spur equity in development to all regions regardless of who becomes president”.

Misleading supporters

“If the BBI intends to increase devolved funds to 35 per cent and allow elective wards to have five per cent of the resources, then what else do we want? We should support the document instead of misleading our supporters,” said the MP.

Machakos MP Victor Munyaka said the stance taken by Uhuru and Raila on the matter was a confirmation that the BBI was meant to serve a few people.

“We will tell Kenyans that the report fails to address critical issues like how the country will deal with the Sh6.6 trillion debt,” Munyaka said.

Former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama said Uhuru and Raila will fail at the plebiscite.

“The proponents of BBI are creating dictators by forcing it down the throats of Kenyans. It will flop,” Muthama said.

The Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) and the Pastoralists Parliamentary Group (PPG) outlined key issues they termed irreducible minimum if they are to support the process of constitutional change.

The group, led by FCDC Chair and Mandera Governor Ali Roba, listed resource allocation, representation, community land protection, Health Service Commission, equalisation fund, discrimination and education as some of the key issues they wanted addressed.

The Standard, however, established that the leaders agreed on a non-confrontational approach. A source at the meeting said they were willing to engage Uhuru and Raila for their issues to be included in the final draft.

Those picked to meet the BBI principals include Roba, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok and MPs Adan Keynan (Eldas), Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Alois Lentoimaga (Samburu North).

The group threatened to shoot down the document if the proposal to have a Judiciary ombudsman appointed by the President is left as it is, and faulted the proposal to have the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissioners (IEBC) picked by political parties.

“The independence of the IEBC as an election arbiter is paramount and must be devoid of political party interference. IEBC must be an independent arbiter,” said Duale.

In Meru, the 12-member Meru Parliamentary Group was said to be planning a meeting to discuss their ‘exclusion’ from the Naivasha meeting.

Sources in the PG said 11 members were alarmed that none of them made it to the meeting for a region that has traditionally supported Uhuru.

National Assembly Deputy Chief Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North) did not attend the Naivasha meeting as he and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi were leading a delegation of miraa stakeholders to a separate meeting with the president in Nairobi.

“But we were fully represented since I have all along been in the planning of this meeting,” said Dr Maore.

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