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Uhuru, Raila face dilemma of picking team to sell BBI

South B ward representative Waithera Chege during a meeting to educate residents on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, yesterday. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Regional supremacy and 2022 political ambitions could turn the exercise of picking a 10-member team to spearhead referendum campaigns into a nightmare for President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The perception that individuals who have been entrusted with the mandate could use it as a launch pad for the next election has created animosity that could lead to fallout among governors, MPs and other politicians.

Already, some of the 16 regional coordinators picked by the two leaders to spearhead collection of signatures in the push to amend the Constitution have started lobbying to be retained after delivering over five million signatures.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) secretariat has announced plans to roll out an aggressive campaign starting next Monday after segmenting the country into 10 regions of Central, Nairobi, Coast, North Eastern, Upper Eastern, Lower Eastern, North Rift, South Rift, Nyanza and Western.

Point man

Each of the regions will have a point man to coordinate the campaigns, and all leaders–elected or not–will report to them.

BBI secretariat co-chair Dennis Waweru yesterday admitted that picking the individuals requires utmost care to avoid any political fallout. “We have not yet identified the names. This is a highly political matter so we have to be extremely careful when picking the individuals to lead the campaigns.”

The development comes as Parliament yesterday resolved to start the process of considering the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020. So far, 41 county assemblies have voted in favour of the Bill, with 33 delivering the draft Bill with a certificate indicating their approval.

“Having consulted the Speaker of the National Assembly, we have resolved to commence the process of consideration of the Bill in Parliament without any further delay, in accordance with the Constitution and the Standing Orders of the respective Houses,” said Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka.

He added: “Any delay in processing to the next stage, which is a consideration of the Bill in Parliament, would cause anxiety and would go against the spirit and intention of the Constitution.”

In an interview with The Standard yesterday, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said the reason for having the 10 regions was for proper coordination. He warned that the mandate should not be exploited for political gain by those planning to run for office in 2022.

“The process will be as inclusive as possible by having all elected leaders play a role in their respective areas in promoting the documents to the voters. The intention is to have diversity. Every MP will be doing it at the constituency,” said Kimunya, adding that members of the clergy and other key players will also be roped in.

Kimunya revealed there were plans to introduce the Bill simultaneously in the Senate and National Assembly as well as to have joint public participation and technical committees to fast-track the debate process.

“We plan to have a debate for a period of two weeks to allow for maximum participation by the lawmakers. By next week Wednesday when we meet, it will be more clear.”

Minority Leader John Mbadi said those who will be picked to coordinate BBI campaigns will have to restrict themselves to the referendum agenda.

“My experience in politics is that there is no mileage one will get using the BBI platform to campaign for their 2022 candidature,” said Mbadi. “Some may tend to use that but it will end up backfiring on them. People are wise enough to separate the two issues.”

He said since campaigning will be done at the grassroots, it will require participation of all political players. He added that he had no problem retaining the team that collected the signatures.

“It should be clear that everyone given the opportunity should operate with decorum without abusing the honour accorded to them.”

Former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo–who spearheaded signature collection in Luo Nyanza–yesterday said he expects to play a role in the BBI campaigns since the committees they formed were still active.

Midiwo also downplayed claims that the platform could be exploited for 2022 gains. “I will be part of it but you know I don’t make the decision. Of course our jobs are not yet finished because we are still the coordinators.”

He continued: “I don’t have to be the leader but it would be odd if I am not included in the team. The issue of 2022 does not belong to this matter. We shall talk about 2022 when we get there. The people who worry so much about 2022 always get shocked the same way Ruto has been shocked by the outcome of the voting by the assemblies.”

MPs George Aladwa (Makadara), Simba Arati (Dagoretti North), Maina Kamanda (nominated) and Nancy Gesire coordinated collection of signatures in Nairobi County while former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti and Mutuma Nkanata spearheaded the exercise in Mt Kenya East.

In Central, ex-Mathira MP Peter Weru was in charge while Mwalimu Makarani coordinated the Coast. In Lower Eastern, Mwengi Mutuse and Kala Musyoka were in charge while Jibril Mahaalim and Abdulahi Derie coordinated the exercise in North Eastern.

Nabii Nabwera coordinated Western while former Cabinet Minister Paul Sang spearheaded signature collection in the South Rift. Others in the team were Violet Chepsang (North Rift), Beatrice Askul (Turkana) and Patrick Lumumba (Kisii).

In a recent interview, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru cast aspersions on a team that had been selected to spearhead BBI campaigns following claims that the document was not popular among the people. “While I wish them all the best, I must remind them and their appointers that BBI is a political process and if it is not led by people the community recognises as political influencers, it will have challenges. That is the nature of politics,” Waiguru said.

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