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Inside Uhuru, Raila plan to collect 5 million signatures

By Moses Nyamori and Rawlings Otieno | November 18th 2020
ODM leader Raila Odinga (second left), accompanied by County Assembly Forum officials, arrive for a meeting at Crown Plaza Hotel in Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga plan to collect five million signatures in an ambitious one-week drive.

The handshake partners have cobbled a network of grassroots leaders to spearhead the signatures collection for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in an aggressive drive that seeks to exceed the one million backing of registered voters required for a referendum.

Governors, senators, MPs, MCAs and party officials have been lined up for the exercise ahead of the official launch by Uhuru and Raila at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) tomorrow.

Shortest time

Yesterday, Raila indicated the plan to collect the requisite signatures within the shortest time possible to allow the passage of the document.

The ODM leader said a summarised version of the proposed constitutional amendments will be printed and distributed for Kenyans to read ahead of the plebiscite scheduled to take place next year.

He further indicated plans for a series of public engagement to popularise the proposed constitutional amendments.

“We want the collection of signatures to be done as quickly as possible,” said Raila.

This as he took a swipe at Deputy President William Ruto for allegedly spreading propaganda about the proposed constitutional changes.

“In any process, we will always have doubting Thomases. There are lies and propaganda which have been peddled outside there about having an imperial president. We are saying let us meet in the field and let Kenyans decide who is saying the truth and who is not,” said Raila.

Co-chair of the referendum committee Junet Mohammed told The Standard yesterday that teams to coordinate signature collections at the national, county, constituency and ward levels were already in place to spearhead the exercise once it is launched.

Governors have been tasked to lead county coordinating committees while MPs and constituency party officials have been identified to spearhead the process across the 290 electoral units.

A similar structure has been cascaded to the ward level where party officials and MCAs have been identified to push for signature collection.

Party leaders will remain at the national level to supervise and monitor the exercise in meeting the set target.

“We have set teams at the county, constituency and ward levels. The plan is to collect four to five million signatures within a week. County coordinating committees will be led by governors,” said Junet.

Further details indicate that governors, MPs and MCAs allied to the deputy president will be sidestepped in the exercise, and their place taken up by party officials in respective areas.

The party officials will be largely drawn from Jubilee Party, ODM and other political outfits backing the initiative by Uhuru and Raila.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the plan was to have the signatures collected within the shortest period possible.

The Constitution requires promoters of a popular initiative to deliver a draft Bill and supporting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The election agency will verify that the initiative is backed by at least one million registered voters.

“If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements of this Article, the commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the commission,” reads Article 257 section 4.

Raila spoke after a meeting with County Assemblies’ Majority and Minority Leaders in Nairobi, where he assured the MCAs that their demands will be factored in after the referendum through administrative actions.

He termed the demands of the ward representatives as work in progress, assuring them that the issues will be addressed.

MCAs have been demanding that some of them should be appointed as county executive members and also given autonomy to run their own coffers.

But yesterday after a closed-door meeting with the BBI co-principal, the MCAs appear to have agreed to back the document with an agreement that the issues they have raised are addressed.

Total support

“The MCAs have raised their issues which will be addressed administratively and through legislation. They have voiced their total support for the BBI. There are different proposals which will be looked into,” said Raila.

He further reiterated to the MCAs that although their demands were genuine, it was not possible to review the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, and asked them to back the report.

“We have agreed that it is not possible to review some of their demands to be included in the Bill. But the MCAs are agreeable to the constitutional amendment,” he said.

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