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BBI's onerous road to the referendum: The reality check

By Moses Njagih | November 26th 2020

The proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will have to race against time to push through the required processes for a referendum to be held before August next year.

After the signature collection launch yesterday, the tough task will be to have the remaining processes that precede a referendum undertaken within a strict timetable to beat a constitutional timeline set under the law.

The Constitution 2010 creates checks against any constitutional changes a year to election, which means that the proponents of the push will have to navigate through strict deadlines, given the long and onerous procedure for a constitutional amendment through a popular initiative.

However, BBI Secretariat joint Chairpersons Junet Mohamed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru exuded confidence that they would push through the process to a referendum, with April as their projected time for the vote.

“We are aware of this requirement and we will save time on some areas. April is our realistic time for the vote,” said Mr Waweru.  

But as the two were exuding confidence, they admitted that some sections of the process were out of their control.

According to the Initiative’s timetable, they intend to collect 4 million signatures – way above the required 1 million – within two weeks and after another week of cleaning, send the same for verification at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

It was at this stage that the ODM-pushed Okoa Kenya referendum bid was stopped after the IEBC could not verify as genuine some of their signatures.

If the BBI bid goes past this stage, it will have to contend with another area where they have no control over - the passage of the Bill by at least 24 of the 47 county assemblies.

Once IEBC has verified the signatures, it will send the referendum Bill to counties, where the proponents of the process will have to lobby the assemblies to fast-track it.

As it is now, and without a referendum law in place, the Constitution does not give timelines within which the assemblies should pass the Bill.

Mohamed said he was positive that the assemblies would pass it in good time to have the Bill moved to Parliament.

But the biggest hurdle could be in Parliament where the Bill, being a constitutional amendment one, the law stipulates must go through 90 days after its first reading to the time it comes for a second reading to ensure thorough public participation.

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