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Leaders plot civic education in Mt Kenya BBI campaigns

By Ndung’u Gachane | March 2nd 2021
Residents of Gititu Village in Tetu, Nyeri, receive copies of the Constitutional Amendment Bill from the founder of Adonai Foundation Ephantus Thuku, during a public awareness meeting. Pro-BBI proponents in Mt Kenya have resorted to using community organisations and church leaders to market the document. on February 28, 2021. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

After clearing the first hurdle at the county assemblies, proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in Mt Kenya are leaving nothing to chance to ensure it sails through the referendum.

The leaders have laid down elaborate plans to sell the BBI report at the grassroots as the draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, heads to Parliament.

According to a working document obtained by The Standard, the BBI team is targeting church leaders, community-based organisations, trade unions and vocal community leaders to sell the BBI report at the grassroots.

The document, which has been distributed to politicians, identifies interest groups that are to be incorporated in the campaigns expected to kick off next month after Parliament debates the Bill.

The BBI secretariat has come up with an abridged version of the report, which is being shared at community forums and on social media platforms. The document enumerates what Mt Kenya will benefit from BBI, and what they stand to lose if the referendum fails at the ballot.

Reluctant to embrace

“Like it happened to the MCAs who were initially reluctant to embrace BBI, we are going flat out to ensure that people in the villages get to understand the content of the document. Within one month, you will see a very big difference,” said a team leader in the BBI secretariat.

The official said although politicians would also be used to campaign for the document, it had been agreed that the best way to spearhead the process was to use grassroots leaders.

“We want a bottom-up approach since we realised that some of these MPs and governors spearheading the process at the grassroots are not popular and that may work against it. We want an all-inclusive approach that will ensure success,” he said.

Already some community-based organisations have pitched tent in the region to popularise the BBI ahead of the nationwide campaign that will be launched next week by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The document cites the one-man-one-shilling mantra that will be beneficial to the region.

“County allocation increases from 15 to 35 per cent. This means the region, regardless of who is president, will not suffer economic or under-development like it happened during the Kanu regime,” reads a pamphlet being used to popularise BBI.

“Development will be guaranteed by the Constitution and not based on the whims of the persons in power. Our region is populous and is often marginalised in terms of representation and resource allocation.”

The document also talks about the post-Uhuru tenure, with emphasis on the need to consolidate gains in the BBI before he exits the stage.

“It is almost certain that we will not have a president from the region in a number of years or decades to come. If we don’t lay a solid foundation for our region’s future and security today, we will live to lament,” the document states.

The abridged version of BBI states initiatives that will make the region prosper economically. 

“One of the mainstays of our region is business and entrepreneurship and BBI addresses this in several ways. For instance, by guaranteeing peace in every election cycle, the economy thrives. BBI is entrenching inclusivity.

“BBI provides for a model that enhances economic growth starting from the grassroots -- a bottom-up economy, thanks to the increase in county allocation and the Ward Development Fund,” the document notes.?

At the weekend, Adonai Foundation, a community-based organisation, was distributing BBI copies to interest groups in Nyeri.

The foundation’s CEO, Ephantus Thuku, said they decided to spread the BBI gospel “due to misinformation that has been peddled about the document”.

“We are telling our people that the benefits in this document outnumber the disadvantages and the region is set to gain by passing it. A lot of lies have been spread on the ground but we are optimistic that as times goes by we are going to correct the situation,” said Thuku.

Yesterday, pro-BBI MPs in the region said plans were in place to involve grassroots mobilisers to make the campaigns a success.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said a wholesome approach will ensure that the document gets the nod of the residents since it was beneficial to the region.

Kega revealed that they will start with civic education across the counties on the constitutional amendments.

“We are grateful to the MCAs for passing the BBI Bill. The next step is going to the people at the grassroots level to educate them before the referendum; that is why we are involving everyone in the process,” said the MP.

Critical role

North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood urged elected leaders to play a critical role in selling the document since they have strong grassroots networks.

Mathioya MP Peter Kimari said the campaigners will break down the provisions of the document to the locals to enable them make informed decisions.

“Our mission is reaching out to all stakeholders and people from all cadres of life to take them through civic education on BBI and undo propaganda and innuendo that has been sold to them. We have started identifying the leaders of these groups who will then assist us to bring together grassroots opinion leaders,” said Kimari.

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi revealed that they have started identifying leaders at the grassroots to spearhead the BBI campaigns.

“We want to move as a group; we don’t want to leave anyone behind and I can promise you by the time the referendum is done, everyone will have BBI proposals in the palm of their hand,” said Nduati.

Kigumo MP Wangari Mwaniki said copies of BBI have been distributed in the region ahead of civic education.

“Now that county assemblies have passed the Bill, time is now ripe to start telling Kenyans what the document is all about. Already, one million copies have been printed and we intend to use representatives of the people at the grassroots to spread the gospel,” Mwaniki noted.

Mt Kenya East BBI coordinator Lenny Kivuti revealed that the president requested leaders to shelve their political ambitions and popularise BBI until June.

The former Embu senator further said they want to enlighten MPs on the benefits of BBI and mobilise opinion leaders at the grassroots.

“When we enlightened the MCAs they were able to understand the Bill better and we shall use the same approach on MPs before turning to Wanjiku by providing the BBI Bill in sensitisation forums ahead of the referendum,” said  Kivuti?.

But Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters accused the campaigners of BBI in the region of “competing against themselves since no one is planning to campaign against the process”.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said: “These people (BBI proponents) should be told we have other priorities and will not be competing with them. They are alone in the field of play and they can go ahead and score a goal, even if it is an own goal.”

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