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Political landscape: What leaders stand to gain, lose today

By Brian Otieno | August 20th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta (c), DP William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya, November 27, 2019. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Today’s judgement on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill, no matter the direction it pulls, will undoubtedly jolt the political landscape.

Hanging in the balance are the hopes of its backers who are keen to benefit from the lofty promises contained in the proposed constitutional amendments. The pro-BBI leaders include ODM leader Raila Odinga and One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals.

Despite opposing the BBI Bill, Deputy President William Ruto will likely be eager about today's judgement.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will also be watching keenly the BBI case at the Court of Appeal, given his recent attempts to put the opposition together.

If the Justice David Musinga-led bench upholds the High Court judgement that declared the BBI Bill null and void, then Raila will have to think of a strategy to win back his 2017 allies in NASA.

The Bill proposed to expand the Executive, introducing a prime minister and two deputies. The new positions, as well as that of deputy president, would have been enough to cater to the ODM leader and former NASA principals.

Before the May 13 ruling by the High Court, Raila rode on the BBI ‘reggae’ to build a momentum he had hoped to sustain to next year’s contest. Ruto and now OKA principals (Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Gideon Moi and Moses Wetang’ula) noticed Raila’s apparent plan.

The DP opposed the BBI from the start and celebrated publicly when the court declared it illegal. A nightmare for Raila and his team means a chance for Ruto to score political points by gloating over their loss. The opposite makes Ruto a laughing stock.

Such an eventuality could enhance his “hustler-cum bottom-up” campaign message, given that the BBI would be out of the picture.

Recently, the DP dismissed coalitions, which hinge on the availability of positions to go around.

Recent history does not have encouraging lessons for Ruto on his plan to win the presidency alone, having found himself in government courtesy of the 2013 Jubilee coalition.

The DP stands to benefit if the BBI is resuscitated. In the event he decides to court new allies then he could use the proposed positions to entice other politicians.

Deputy President William Ruto at St.Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Gatina, Kawangware. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

While Ruto tried to stall Raila’s gains by campaigning against the BBI, the ODM leader’s former allies joined the band, hoping that they could ride on the momentum. At one point, there were accusations from within Raila’s ODM camp that Mudavadi & co had planned to hijack reggae.

OKA principals were seemingly banking on an expanded executive to accommodate them all hence their vigour in campaigning for the BBI Bill.

All that goes down the drain in case the Appellate court upholds the High Court ruling. Raila has already said he will not move to the Supreme Court should the BBI appeal case flop meaning he is planning for life after a probable heartbreak.

A favourable ruling gives the ODM leader the chance once again to spread his “nobody can stop reggae” message, with the dream that his former allies could have a road to Damascus moment.

The same applies to OKA. If today’s judgement swings in their favour, then they will have a larger cake to share, assuming they decide to go into 2022 without Raila.

In recent times, President Kenyatta has reportedly tried to have OKA back Raila’s candidature. If the Court of Appeal overturns the lower court's ruling then this could make his job easier, given the BBI promises may soften the hearts of OKA principals.

The president could also appease his Mt Kenya backyard if the BBI eventually overcomes legal hurdles. The region was poised to benefit from 39 of the proposed new 70 constituencies.

He could also get a boost in securing his legacy of “promoting inclusivity” by starting a project with his former rival and see it through to the end. 

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