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Uhuru allies play safe after surprise BBI judgement

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng'etich | May 18th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

As President Uhuru Kenyatta continues to maintain studious silence on the High Court ruling on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), his allies have decided to play safe as they plot their political moves.

Birthed by the handshake between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, the initiative to unite Kenyans that metamorphosised into the plan to amend the 2010 Constitution had co-opted top party leaders including Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya), Charity Ngilu (Narc) and Gideon Moi (Kanu).

After High Court Judges Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Teresia Matheka and Chacha Mwita declared the BBI unconstitutional, the politicians who seems to have been caught flatfooted have now adopted a cautions response to the matter.

Aware of the BBI timelines and the clock ticking fast towards the next General Election which is 14 months away and fear that the referendum to change the law could slip through their fingers, Raila, Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang'ula seem to be coming to reality that time is not on their side.

The ANC leader has already called for a national conference to relook the BBI. But is quick to note that the process should not be limited to happening before the next General Election.

"Regardless of the results from any appeals preferred, the bulk of the provisions of the BBI Bill will not, for sure, become operational in next year’s General Election... for instance the proposed 70 constituencies would not be applicable if a referendum is not concluded before August 2022," said Mudavadi.

Instead, the ANC leader has proposed that the entire process to change the law starts a fresh and be guided by the High Court verdict.

He argues that there must be a silver lining out of the court’s judgement and Kenyans should re-start a proper conversation in the format of the 1997 IPPG arrangement.

"We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater," said Mudavadi.

Raila who was the first to respond to the ruling expressed his disappointment in the turn of events and vowed to move to Court of Appeal.

“We will move to the Court of Appeal to present our case as to why we think the High Court did not render the right verdict. We will do so with sobriety and with respect for our judges and courts,” said Raila.

He however, said the judgement was a direct disrespect for the Presidency and the Office of the President.

The ODM leader urged those opposed to the ruling to restrain from personalised attacks on the court and the judges.

"We must respect its ruling and its freedom to exercise its judgment as it understands the legal and constitutional matters before it," said Raila.

President Kenyatta is working on the appeal through the Attorney General Paul Kihara and Solicitor General Ken Ogeto.

The AG has already filed notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal and moved to the High Court’s Constitutional Court and Human Rights division to seek stay order. 

Meanwhile, lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi believes that Raila should not appeal the BBI judgment.

Perhaps keen to take in such advice, Raila has been on vacation in Watamu, Kilifi County and is yet to assemble a team of lawyers to prepare an appeal.  

Yesterday, Kalonzo broke his silence on the High Court judgement and called on Kenyans to respect the rule of law despite disagreeing with the decision.

The Wiper leader insisted that although a number of Kenyans were not happy about the ruling, they need to respect the Judiciary.

High voltage

"I also ask all Kenyans to respect due process, and respect our Judiciary. It is neither wise nor helpful to disparage the Judiciary on account of the High Court Judgment. Even though some of us may disagree with various declarations made in that high voltage judgment, we can disagree without being disagreeable," said Kalonzo.

Kenya’s constitution-making process, the Wiper leader noted, was never been easy from the first efforts recorded by the Lancaster House Conference.

Wetang'ula warned Kenyans against name calling of the five judges.

"My advice to those in leadership is to remember in our court hierarchy we have layers of courts, those who are not happy, the Court of Appeal doors are open," he said.

The Ford-Kenya leader urged the political divide not to engage in name calling against the judges.  

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