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Uhuru, Raila to initiate BBI’s signature drive

ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) with Mt Kenya leaders led by former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth (left) and former Starehe MP Maina Kamanda in Nairobi, yesterday. [David Njaaga, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga will tomorrow launch signature collection for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report in Nairobi. 

The two ‘Handshake’ partners are expected to kick off the collection of four million signatures for the BBI Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020, at Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

The BBI national secretariat led by joint chairmen Junet Mohammed (Suna East), former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, and members Janet Ong’era (Kisii) and Sarah Kilemi, revealed this when they spoke to the media yesterday.

“We now wish to inform all Kenyans that we shall launch collection of signatures as it is required by law for the Bill tomorrow. The process will be led by the president and former Prime Minister Raila,” Waweru said.

He called upon Kenyans to turn up for the event.

“We call upon those who want to see an end to corruption, ethnic antagonism, marginalisation of sections of society, empowerment of youth, women and people living with disability to board the BBI train,” Waweru said.

Junet said the Bill will not be gazetted as this was not required by law.

“The Bill is ready and Kenyans will see it tomorrow when the two principals launch it. We are not required to gazette the Bill but collect a million signatures and take them to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification,” Junet said.

He said the process will last for a week from tomorrow.

“We are required to collect a million signatures, but we have opted for four million so that we are able to collect them from all corners of the country.”

The collection of a million signatures and public outreach that starts tomorrow will end on December 2.

There was speculation that the process will be delayed after Uhuru met his Deputy William Ruto at State House last week. But tomorrow’s launch now means Uhuru and Raila are determined to see the process, which they initiated through the handshake, go the whole hog.

Ruto and his allies, a section of the religious groups and other interested Kenyans have been calling for a consensus on the BBI report.

However, Raila and his allies have challenged those opposed to it to lead the ‘No’ campaign and meet them at the ballot when the referendum is called.

Sources told The Standard that the Bill was finalised on Wednesday night and it is the reason the launch of signature collection, which was set for last Thursday, was called off.

Yesterday, Raila maintained the door to any major changes to the BBI document had been shut.

“There must be an end to the collection of views. We have had two years collecting views. We must now take the process further all the way to the referendum. We are going to launch the collection of signatures this week,” said Raila.

At a meeting with a section of Mt Kenya leaders, Raila said they have tried to be as inclusive as possible with the document.

Raila opined that life must go on and chastised those calling for a stoppage of the process to deal with the corona pandemic, adding that those calling for a non-contested referendum were being hypocritical.

“World over, a referendum is contested so that those who are supporting it have a right just like those who are opposing it. We are not forcing anybody to support it. We are a democratic country,” said Raila.

Last week, Ruto had called for halting of the process of collecting signatures until proposed changes to the BBI report are made.

Ruto also took to his Twitter handle to call for a stop to all activities to allow focus on fighting Covid-19.

“The wave of Covid-19 is clearly ravaging our nation with alarming increases in infections and deaths. The pandemic is killing people including health workers while destroying livelihoods. We should stop everything and mobilise every human, material and financial resource to fight,” he posted.

But according to Raila, there are countries in the world that have conducted their elections amid the pandemic.

“Life must continue despite the pandemic. The US has just conducted their elections, Tanzania just next door conducted theirs, and Uganda is now at the height of elections campaigns despite the pandemic. Kenya is no different from all those countries. Life must go on,” he said.

National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore (Imenti North) told The Standard that the Bill will be published today.

“The Bill will be published tomorrow (today). By Wednesday, we should be having the Bill ready,” said Maore.

The more than 20 leaders drawn from the populous region questioned the sincerity of those opposing the contents of the BBI.

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth challenged those opposing the document to pinpoint what was wrong with it.

Ward fund

Kenneth questioned if having a Ward Development Fund or increasing the allocation of the devolved units from the current 15 per cent to 35 per cent was a bad thing.

“We must begin to say the truth. Let us take clause by clause. Is having a Ward Development Fund a bad idea,” posed Kenneth.

Constitutional lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo said the Bill can be dealt with in two ways.

“This can be done through a draft Bill to Parliament, which will pave way for the 90-day public participation and through all the stages in Parliament before becoming law,” Kamotho said.

But he said the proponents of the report can choose to go the popular vote way.

“This will then require collecting a million signatures, taking them to IEBC for verification before being voted on by 50 per cent of the counties. When it comes to Parliament, it also requires 50 per cent backing,” Kamotho said.

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