“We can still strike a consensus to address the divisive proposals fronted by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.”
This is the stand of Deputy President William Ruto who insists that the issues attracting dissent in the report can still be solved even after the launch of signature collection for the plebiscite today. According to the DP, the document has sown the seeds of strife, hence, if left unchecked could end up entrenching division through a contested referendum.
“Even with the signature launch, there is still a real chance at a consensus for a non-divisive referendum that will give Kenyans the opportunity to express themselves without [sic] an us vs them, win vs lose the contest. unity is the strength needed to fight Covid-19 and organise the economy,” he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, in reaction to the launch of the collection of signatures.
Ruto fielded some reservations at Bomas during the launch of the report on October 26 as he faulted some of the proposals. For instance, he questioned the methodology through which creation of positions of Prime Minister and two deputies from the majority party in the Parliament would address the winner-take-it all snag that was flagged as the genesis of anarchy in the country.
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He then faulted the creation of the office of Ombudsman to be appointed by the presidency arguing that that move would water down powers of the Judiciary. But last week, the DP met President Uhuru Kenyatta after the signature collection launch was put on hold leading to speculations that perhaps he had managed to successfully push for the consensus.
The BBI Secretariat led by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru set November 25 as the day for the launch of the exercise. It comes five days after it aborted due to delay in the publication of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020.
“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 on Monday.
BBI train moves
Ruto’s calls for consensus have been met with resistance from the ODM leader who has faulted critics of the document for withholding their views during the window period that ran up to early this year, only for them to resurface with demands.
Raila said the BBI train had left the station and it only presented Kenyans with two choices—boarding it or opposing it.
“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,” he said, added, “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,” he said on Monday.
Mr Odinga and President Uhuru led a delegation of legislators and state officers in the launch of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and collection of signatures at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The event came just after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) approved the signature collection forms, paving way for the preparation for exercise.
At the event, Uhuru, who nearly read from the script with his deputy as he seemed open to the accommodation of new views, had apparently shifted gears. He praised BBI as the probable cure for the societal ills and a stream of new ideas to water the nation.
“This document is alive, it supposed to treat the challenges we face as a country, let us not treat it as an enemy. Let us come together,” Uhuru said.
“Women will comprise 50 per cent of all senators making them directly involved in making a decision on how 35 per cent of National resources are spent,” he further stated, as he touted the proposals to put gender parity snag to rest.
Known to be promising his supporters a deliverance to Canaan, meaning a political change; Raila took to the podium to heap kind words for the proposals, terming them as the country’s uniting factors to negotiate a new path.
“We have trekked through the difficult days of hatred and division, we have gone through the wilderness of anger and marginalization, we can see the promised land ahead. But the promised land will never come to us, we have to go to it,” he said urging Kenyans to drum their support on a document that was promising to country’s future.
“We’re opening a new chapter of the book we started writing in March 2018. I appeal to patriotic Kenyans to come out in record numbers and append their approval in record time so that we move to the next chapter.”
The secretariat is aiming to collect at least 1 million signatures which according to the Kenyan Constitution, will enable the IEBC to prepare a referendum vote.