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Ruto, Atwoli differ on BBI shock ruling as COTU boss ‘demands’ action against 5 judges

By Mireri Junior | May 14th 2021

Deputy President William Ruto (L) hailed the May 13 BBI ruling as a win for democracy. COTU boss Francis Atwoli (R), on the other hand, claims decision was made to punish Pres. Kenyatta. [Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto has now directly reacted to the High Court’s Thursday decision which declared the BBI Constitution amendment process null and void.

Unlike Thursday night, when he said: “there’s a God in heaven who loves Kenya”; a statement interpreted as a celebration following the court outcome, Ruto on Friday said the Judiciary “defended the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism” in declaring the BBI process illegal.

“Our democracy is anchored on the Rule of Law, Constitutionalism, Separation of Power[s] and respect for independent institutions. All patriotic citizen[s] must defend these tenets just like [the] Judiciary did. Now let's focus on Covid-19 vaccination, economic recovery, the Big Four and stay united,” said Ruto on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

His longtime critic, Francis Atwoli, who is the COTU-Kenya boss and a pro-BBI diehard, however, faulted the courts for throwing the BBI process into a spin, claiming the five High Court judges, who ruled against the quest for change, were using the corridors of justice to settle personal scores with President Uhuru Kenyatta, the foremost BBI champion.

Insisting “reggae had not been stopped”, Atwoli, who spoke to The Standard from his Kilifi residence on Friday afternoon, said: [The ruling] was an attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta by the five judges. This shows openly that they had a predetermined decision. President Kenyatta should take stringent action(s) against the five. BBI is still on course.”

The five High Court judges, who have been hailed as bold by a section of leaders and politicians, are: Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Chacha Mwita, and Teresia Matheka.

In regard to the ruling, christened the BBI Night of Shock, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said on Twitter: “When the history of Kenya is properly written, the contribution of Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Chacha Mwita and Teresia Matheka will be written in golden letters. They are part of the few remaining Kenyan prophets who have not bowed down to Baal. God bless you.”

Murkomen’s remarks were echoed by Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who said on Twitter: “Justices Ngugi, Odunga, Ngaah, Matheka, Mwita have shown unmatched patriotism. Their judgement has elevated Wanjiku to the pedestal she/he deserves. [It is] very difficult to appeal [against the decision]. The David Judiciary has faced the Goliath Executive/ Parliament. Nobody is above the law.”

City lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who once termed the BBI process as “unconstitutional from the onset”, said the Attorney-General has a less-than-five per cent chance of succeeding should he appeal the lower court’s verdict, “but could get a lifeline at the apex court”.

“The chances of the Court of Appeal overturning the High Court’s five judges' judgment on BBI is less than 5 per cent. The chances of the Supreme Court of Kenya overturning the BBI judgement is over 75 per cent. Five judges [of the Supreme Court] will overturn the ruling, two won’t. The Supreme Court is the weakest link in the Judicial chain,” Abdullahi said on Twitter on Friday, May 14.

Even as reactions continue to mount following the shocker decision, high-ranking persons allied to ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is a co-captain in the BBI ship, claim they will throw their support behind AG Kariuki Kihara’s appeal against the High Court ruling.

In a 500-page landmark judgement that took six hours to deliver, the five High Court judges hit out at President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, declaring their BBI project as unconstitutional, illegal, null, and void.

“Any step that has been taken to amend the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative is null and void and cannot be subjected to any referendum. The court issues a permanent injunction stopping the electoral commission from proceeding to organise any referendum for the Bill,” ruled the judges.

The bench ruled that Kenyatta did not use the popular initiative route while instituting proposals to amend the Constitution, despite the Head of State’s team labeling the process as people-driven.

The Court stated the President, if he really wanted to change the Constitution, should have petitioned Parliament through the AG’s office.

The Court also ruled that the electoral board, IEBC, was not properly constituted when it verified signatures of at least three million Kenyans who allegedly expressed their support behind the process.

The decision came as a bitter pill for Kenyatta and Raila, having spent the last three years selling the BBI agenda and marshalling troops from the county assemblies to Parliament, only to fall in the last hurdle when the legislative arms had passed the baton for the referendum.

(Additional reporting by Tobias Chanji)

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