AfricaPress-Kenya: The country is likely to hold a referendum by June next year as it seeks to make changes to the Constitution proposed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Yesterday, pro-BBI legislators, drawn from the Senate and National Assembly in Naivasha, unanimously agreed to push forward the report with minimal changes, against the backdrop of dissenting voices.
Siaya Senator James Orengo, flanked by President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and top leadership of both Houses, read the resolutions of the two-day retreat at the Great Rift Valley lodge in Naivasha attended by about 300 legislators.
“We are ready. There is a schedule of activities to be done that will lead to the referendum. We request all leaders and citizens to join this process. No one is greater than Kenya. BBI is the fulfillment of the words of our national anthem,” he said.
Mr Orengo who is also the Senate Minority Leader added, “We now have a better understanding and support how the document seeks to resolve issues of equal distribution of resources, marginalised communities, gender parity and youth.”
At the end of the meeting it was clear that the door had been slammed on those opposed to the report, like Deputy President William Ruto and his allies who have taken issue with sections of the document.
Leaders reportedly agreed to have the document presented to Kenyans in its entirety to avoid legal challenges for lack of public participation were it to be reopened for more input from those who have expressed reservations.
Orengo said shared prosperity means all communities will be able to enjoy a share of national resources.
“One of the methods that will be achieved is by increasing the minimum amount of shareable revenue to the counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent,” he said.
The resolutions further said BBI creates a development fund which will be allocated 5 per cent shareable revenue as an additional measure to ensure resources reach grassroots.
Orengo also outlined provisions for inclusion of women and people living with disability in national leadership.
Sources within the meeting told The Standard that there was a feeling among the top leadership that Ruto was playing double standards on the issue and there would be no turning back on the matter.
“The President told us that he consulted Ruto at every stage on the BBI process and he helped him identify members to the BBI task force to fill the seven slots for the Jubilee Party. Ruto appointed three while the president appointed four,” the source said.
Before the meeting with legislators, the President first met the House leadership including Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot), Majority Whip Irungu Kangata (Murang’a), Minority Leader James Orengo (Siaya), and Deputy Majority Leader Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo).
Others were Deputy Majority Whip Farhiya Ali (Nominated), National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) and Minority Whip Junet Mohammed (Suna East).
The Head of State and ODM leader promised to put together a team to spearhead the report’s implementation in the course of the week.
According to a seven-month schedule of events for the implementation matrix of the report, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has 60 days between April 6 and June 6 next year to conduct a referendum.
The process will culminate in Uhuru assenting to the amendments within seven days, ending on June 14 next year. That is if his side wins the vote.
The packed schedule has 224 days allocated various activities leading to the referendum. It begins this week where Uhuru and Raila are set to launch the referendum coordination committee.
The collection of a million signatures and public outreach also start immediately and will end on December 2.
Then there will be a week to prepare and submit the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill to IEBC. The electoral body will in a month be expected to verify the signatures and within a week, submit the Bill to County Assemblies.
The MCAs will have a month to approve the Bill and MPs will within 45 days vote on the Bill.
Raila yesterday thanked the MPs for supporting law reforms.
“A big thank you to our MPs who have voiced their support for the BBI process. I appeal to Kenyans to seize this constitutional moment,” he said.
However, the news drew sharp criticism from Ruto supporters with Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen accusing the President of dividing the country.
Dividing the country
“I want to ask Uhuru to stop dividing the country. He should embrace the spirit of dialogue and consensus building. The President should be a statesman and learn to build bridges of unity. The bravado and don’t care attitude is not a mark of eminence,” Mr Murkomen said.
He accused the MPs who attended the Naivasha meeting of grandstanding and political posturing.
The MPs meeting in Naivasha used the opportunity to ask for the Constituency Development Fund to be anchored in the Constitution. The Senators on their part asked for edits to be done on the House’s mandate.
“Both proposals were agreed upon and approved,” said Makueni Senator Kilonzo Mutula Junior. Mr Kangata promised to spearhead campaigns for the BBI in Mt Kenya region.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega who chairs the National Assembly Standing Committee on Budget announced that they were ready to approve funds to facilitate the BBI process.
“There will be many activities between now and June next year. There is no requisition yet for funding of a referendum. Once this happens we shall not hesitate to prepare and approve a supplementary budget for the plebiscite,” said Mr Kega.
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi reiterated that the document has far-reaching benefits for Kenyans hence the need for them to embrace it.
“With tax breaks to allow them to establish their businesses, incubators in the wards and Ward Fund, the youth have a reason to support this document,” said Senator Moi.
While Uhuru and Raila were addressing the MPs, Ruto was hosting a delegation from Lower Eastern at his Karen home.
“Held a progressive engagement with Kamba professionals from Lower Eastern comprising Makueni, Machakos and Kitui Counties, Karen, Nairobi County,” he tweeted.
Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni explained that the MPs agreed to push through with the Constitutional Amendment as it is, saying any alteration to the document would open doors for litigation.
MPs Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East) and Godfrey Osotsi (Nominated) said that the leaders have a task to popularize the BBI report and to demystify propaganda being peddled by the anti-BBI brigade led by Ruto.
Yesterday, Ruto’s allies were mulling over their next move.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech said: “We are trying to avoid a contest but if what is happening continues we will contest. This is a campaign launch and they have invited us, those talking and saying they will push for BBI with minimal changes are leaders, what will happen if the same report is taken to the people will it be adopted. This will be a contested document in one way or another.”