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Uhuru in a fix as BBI politics threaten to derail his legacy

By Roselyne Obala and Jacob Ngetich | Nov 22nd 2020 | 4 min read
President Uhuru Kenyatta claps as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga hugs Deputy President William Ruto (right) during national prayer breakfast at the Safari Park Hotel in 2018. [File, Standard]

As the clock ticks towards the end of 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta is increasingly finding himself in a catch-22, having to steady the handshake ship while keeping his deputy in check.

In between the pressures effused by DP William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga sides is a frail economy further battered by a stubborn pandemic and time is slipping away fast enough for the kind of legacy the president had imagined.

In the recent past, Ruto's arc had bent towards opposing the BBI, making the equation somewhat easy for the president. But his slow turn-around in the last few weeks, demanding consensus, has blurred what was previously a clear picture.

Coupled with this is emerging swell of calls by the clergy and business leaders that greater attention be accorded to Covid-19 as well as the unity of the country in these difficult times.

His agenda

President Kenyatta, in his second term, narrowed his manifesto agendas to four key pillars – food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all. With the remaining time, pundits and politicians have noted that beyond what has been achieved, little can still be covered in the remaining time.

“The feeling is that the president is under pressure to dispense with the BBI agenda, and dispense it in a manner that ensures that no changes are entertained. This against every available evidence that more factors needed to be taken into consideration,” disclosed a source privy to discussions held at State House last week.

At the meeting, the president is said to have recounted his earlier commitment to accommodate views of all Kenyans when he received the document from the BBI steering committee in Kisii County, a day after Mashujaa Day celebrations. He did the same when unveiling the document at Bomas the following week.

In addition, Raila's side had already upstaged his side and announced that the drive would kick off last Thursday. This even as it was becoming apparent, with benefit of government intelligence, that it would be more ideal for the president to embrace consensus.

“Universally, referendum are divisive just like elections. We cannot have a uniform position. The Ruto, Tanga tanga wing should stop splitting hairs and engaging in mind games. If they don’t want the BBI, let them keep their peace, we finalise with the process and move on,” says ODM’s Political Affairs Secretary Opiyo Wandayi.

The fears from Raila's side is that if the drive is not launched in good time, the opportunity for a contest might slip away and work to the advantage of Ruto.

The DP's side on the other hand is keen to play games if it can relegate the BBI agenda and push it closer to the 2022 contest.

"Our focus MUST be the ravaging Covid-19," Ruto tweeted yesterday.

He promised to continue pursuing consensus while condemning the "raw arrogance" of those pushing away pro-consensus proponents.

Already there are jitters within Raila camp that Uhuru’s troops are no longer ‘singing’ the BBI song as they did.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita says as much as consensus building is important, however to the DP and his Tanga tanga brigade, it means the end of BBI.

Nominated MP Godfrey Ososti dismissed the calls by the DP and his team for consensus, arguing that they have been busy scandalising the process and therefore their latest demand is to derail it.

But to Law society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi, President Kenyatta does not believe in the BBI but only was to use the process to secure a Raila presidency for strategic political interests.

“What interest does an outgoing president have with the Constitution? It can only be for self-interest,” said Havi.

According to economist Dr David Ndii, Uhuru’s Big Four agenda faces an uncertain future especially with coronavirus pandemic disrupting the affordable universal health care, food security, affordable housing and manufacturing.

Beyond the political turmoil and the expected repercussion, with the exacerbated health situation in the country, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has estimated a referendum would cost about Sh14 billion.

Consolidate gains

"Don't listen to naysayers. BBI is only coming to cement the Big 4 foundation. You only need to look around to see that they have fairly taken off and what is needed now is to consolidate the gains. BBI will provide this important basis for the excellence of the Big 4 agenda," BBI Steering Committee Co-chair Dennis Waweru said.

He said the Big Four agenda would suffer without BBI passing through.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Laikipia woman representative Catherine Waruguru.

"The President and the Right Honourable former PM have steadied the ship for Big 4 to take off. Except for the corona, we would be far by now... We are determined to finish this BBI race, in the best interest of the country," she said.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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