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Ban on rallies deals blow to BBI campaigns

By Standard Team | May 2nd 2021
Siaya Senator James Orengo paying last respect to the late Chacha Obange in Kapiyo village, West Sakwa ward in Siaya County.[Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The extension of the ban on political gatherings has dealt a blow to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process.

In his address yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the ban had been extended indefinitely and only gatherings of 150 or less people would be allowed.

This means that tentative timelines for the referendum drive by President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, through the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2020 currently before Parliament and expected to be concluded this week, could be affected.

While Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka has gazetted special sittings for this week to dispense with the matter, National Assembly resumes its sittings on Tuesday after a long recess due to the Covid-19 pandemic that saw both Houses alter their calendars.

If approved by the august House, it will go for presidential assent and later submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will frame the referendum question and set dates for the vote.  

Politicians will have 90 days to campaign for the BBI Bill.

President Kenyatta and Raila had agreed to roll out a drive to enlighten Kenyans on the contents of the Bill but the surge in Covid-19 cases slowed down "reggae".

The directive by the president has, however, complicated matters for the pro-BBI faction, especially after political leaders were accused of being "super-spreaders" during the rallies that attracted large crowds.

The church and other leaders pointed an accusing finger at the president, Deputy President William Ruto and Raila, among others who convened the rallies to drum up support for BBI.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen yesterday said the lifting of the lockdown was to aid the BBI referendum process.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, however, said political rallies aside, the pro-BBI political faction would employ whatever means possible to campaign for the changes.

“We are going to be using the media, online platforms as well as engaging small groups while also observing the Covid-19 protocols. We can also go to where the people are such as businesses and chamas to spread the BBI gospel as opposed to holding rallies,” Wambugu said.

Nyandarua Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru said there was no need for political gatherings.

"Kenyans are busy working towards economic recovery. I am sure proponents like myself will find ways and strategies to root for BBI," she said.

Yesterday, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said they would work hard to ensure the BBI process sails through despite claims that they were out to scuttle it.

The duo said the BBI Bill will be passed next week by both the National Assembly and Senate.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula said in Malava that those who want amendments were the same people who initially rejected any changes to the document.

 Josphat Thiong'o, Eric Abuga and Olivia Odhiambo

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