President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday met his deputy William Ruto in what was seen as a last-minute dash to consolidate support for the BBI report.
The meeting came ahead of a signature collection drive that was initially set to be launched today. The launch was, however, postponed yesterday evening, with the National Secretariat citing “late completion and publication of The Constitution Amendment Bill, 2020” by the Government Printer.
“The secretariat is working on a new date with a comprehensive programme of rollout activities, which will be communicated in due course,” read the press release signed by secretariat co-chairs Dennis Waweru and Junet Mohamed.
Despite the postponement, the three-hour meeting between the president and the DP heightened talks of a possible compromise on the Building Bridges Initiative’s proposals (BBI).
The agenda of the meeting was known only by the pair, as they did not allow anyone else into the talks. Ruto was driven into State House a few minutes before 2 pm and the meeting ended at 5 pm.
The private meeting came hours after the DP tweeted that a “YES/NO contest” was uncalled for and divisive.
“I love this country enough never to be part of any war. Not when there is a real possibility for a win-win consensus beckoning. Us versus them ‘YES/NO’ contest that will lead to lose-lose outcome is unnecessary and unwarranted. A non-contested referendum is possible,” Ruto tweeted.
It is not clear if Uhuru had convinced him to join them in today’s [postponed] event where the president and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to officially kick off the collection of one million signatures as a constitutional requirement for a referendum.
In an MPs’ meeting in Naivasha last month, Uhuru and Raila gave a road map that would see the country go into a possible referendum in April next year. Uhuru has blown hot and cold on the issue of consensus, at one time calling for it while on a different occasion he insisted that the report was complete and would be taken to the people to decide.
Yesterday, Ruto’s Communications Director Emmanuel Tallam said the meeting between the president and his deputy was normal and did not warrant any news.
“How does it become news when Ruto and his boss meet? They serve in the same government,” said Tallam.
Earlier, women leaders under the ‘Embrace’ banner met Uhuru and Raila in State House and pledged to crisscross the country to popularise the initiative ahead of the referendum.
The women leaders who attended the meeting include Embrace Team co-chairs Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) and Sabina Chege (Murang’a), Gathoni Wa Muchomba (Kiambu) and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
Wanga said the female leaders agreed to support the BBI and will go round the country to enlighten women on how they will benefit from the proposals.
“We affirmed our support for the BBI process. For the first time since independence, women will gain at least one-third of political representation as envisaged in the BBI. We all agreed to go and do civic education on the unity of the country,” she said.
Chege told The Standard that the leaders had a discussion on what women, youth and persons living with disabilities (PLWDs) stand to gain from the document.
“We went through gains meant for women, youth and PLWDs in the BBI. We assured the principals of our support and commitment to reach to the grassroots to create awareness as we popularise the report,” said Chege.
Wa Muchomba, who is also the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association chair, said the meeting revolved around gender gains in the BBI report and that the women leaders agreed to support the referendum bid.
Uhuru and Raila promised to champion the two-thirds principle to ensure both Houses of Parliament are gender compliant.