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Raila dismisses opposing views as signatures pass five million mark

By Moses Nyamori | December 5th 2020
ODM leader Raila Odinga while inspecting the ongoing construction at Mamboleo show ground in Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Over five million signatures have been collected across the country in support of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020.

The latest tally of signatures comes as ODM leader Raila Odinga dashed hopes for consensus on the proposed constitutional changes by dismissing Deputy President William Ruto’s demands on the process.

Speaking yesterday while receiving 5.2 million signatures in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) document, Raila said voters should be allowed to decide at the ballot.

“I am not aware of a referendum that has no opposing sides. There is nothing like a non-contested referendum. Referendum by its nature must have those opposing it and those supporting it,” Raila said.

Of the signatures collected, 893,792 were from Nyanza.

This was followed closely by Eastern region, which collected 842,000 signatures, while in the Rift Valley, 817,000 voters appended their signatures in support of the initiative.

In Central, 793,135 voters signed while in Coast 745,033 voters are in support. Western collected 525,000 signatures, Nairobi 506,048, while North Eastern collected 161,000.

The BBI secretariat co-chair Dennis Waweru projected that the figures could hit 6 million signatures.

The collection of signatures launched last Wednesday was officially closed yesterday.

However, there were signatures that were yet to be included in the cumulative figure.

Waweru announced they would have the signatures alongside the Bill submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) next week.

He said since some of the signatures were collected through electronic platforms, it should not take the commission a lot of time to verify them.

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“In the next one week, we are going to ensure that the signatures have been submitted to IEBC,” he said.

Raila said the outcome of the signature collection was an indication that the country was ready to back the proposed amendments.

“We have over five million signatures in support of the Bill and more are still coming. Five million signatures in slightly over a week signal a strong seal of approval of the process, the necessity of it all, the final document and expected end result,” he said.

He called on IEBC to move with speed and release the process to the next stage, which is taking the signatures to the county assemblies.

If approved by at least 24 county assemblies, the Bill will be forwarded to both the Senate and the National Assembly before it is subjected to a vote by the people.

Raila said voters should be allowed to make independent decisions without political intimidation and threats. He told those opposed to the proposals to do so without trying to blackmail those in support.

“Let the ballot decide; if you have the numbers, we shall accept defeat and you should also be ready to accept if we defeat you,” Raila said.

Ruto has insisted that there is still room for consensus on some of the contested clauses even after signature collection had been launched, saying the process should not be reduced to a Yes and No contest.

On Wednesday, Ruto called for a multi-choice referendum that he wants to be conducted alongside the 2022 General Election.

He said that multiple question referendum would allow voters to participate in the process without necessarily backing or rejecting the entire document. The latest stance by pro-BBI figures that there would be no further talks on the document presents tough political options for the DP, who does not seem ready to face off with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, just a year to the General Election.

Raila yesterday indicated that the conditions by the DP were meant to lay the ground for rejecting the document.

He said that he was surprised that those who opposed the 2010 Constitution for having 20 per cent defects were the same people opposed to the new move to amend it.

He dismissed Ruto’s suggestion to conduct the referendum alongside the 2022 General Election.

“The current election already has six ballots and that is a problem. IEBC has suggested that the elections be staggered... Adding a seventh ballot would be asking for too much,” he said.

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