President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to hit the road to popularise the BBI referendum Bill from next week as they prepare for a public vote by June.
The Building Bridges Initiative secretariat on Tuesday unveiled an elaborate programme in which the two leaders will hold joint rallies for the first time.
The details emerged as Deputy President William Ruto’s allies appeared to make a tactical retreat, insisting that their commander was not ready to spearhead a national ‘No’ campaign.
Ruto, a vocal critic of the law change, has remained unusually quiet after 40 county assemblies, including his Rift Valley backyard, almost unanimously endorsed the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
His allies claim some BBI proponents are keen to build momentum for the 2022 presidential contest and will use the referendum to corner the DP.
The BBI secretariat co-chaired by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru on Wednesday said the nationwide BBI popularisation campaigns will begin on March 1.
A robust campaign to sensitise Kenyans on the contents of the Bill will involve town hall meetings and major rallies, the secretariat announced.
The secretariat on Wednesday held a strategy meeting with the leadership of Parliament led by Jubilee coalition joint secretary for parliamentary affairs Adan Keynan, Majority leader Amos Kimunya, Whip Emanuel Wangwe and his deputy Maoka Maore.
The technical team has segmented the country into 10 regions, each to have a campaign committee that will be responsible for popularising BBI.
The format, leadership and specifics of the 10 BBI popularisation committees will be released by Friday to give the leaders time to mobilise Kenyans for next week’s campaign rollout.
The committees will coordinate BBI activities in their regions; some governors will be regional focus leaders.
They will be backed by MPs, senators and MCAs on county committees.
“We will embark on a vigorous campaign that will shake every corner of this country. We are going to reach every village in this country, talk to every man and woman to tell him or her why this document is good for this country,” Junet said at Daraja House, after the meeting.
He added, “As you know, a referendum is just like an election, we must go out there and campaign. We are prepared for the campaigns.”
By Thursday, 40 of 47 county assemblies had passed the Bill, meaning it proceeds to Parliament where the two Houses are expected to endorse it within three weeks. Whatever Parliament says, the Bill will require a referendum.
Only Baringo county rejected the Bill in a chaotic sitting.
According to the Constitution, the role of Parliament is a formality and Kenyans will make the final decision.
On Wednesday, Kimunya said National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Ken Lusaka have set up a technical committee in readiness for the Bill.
The committee includes parliamentary staff from the two Houses working under Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye and his National Assembly counterpart Michael Sialai.
Their main role is to receive draft bills and their approval certificates from speakers of county assemblies and expedite the process of BBI consideration.
“In Parliament, we have already started the process; there is already a technical team [that is] receiving certificates from the counties and immediately we have 24 (certificates) verified, the process in Parliament will kick in,” Kimunya said.
“Let us not divide Kenyans along ethnic, regional or religious lines,” Keynan said. “The document is good for the country and as Parliament, we are gearing up to play our role as the representatives of the people to shame the prophets of doom who were spreading propaganda.”
After Parliament’s approval, the Secretariat – which is the promoter of the referendum Bill – will move to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to obtain the date for a referendum.
Already there are legal hurdles blocking the IEBC from taking the Bill to the people in a referendum.
On February 8, a five-bench judge presided over by Justice Joel Ngugi issued a temporary conservatory order restraining the IEBC from subjecting the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2020 to a referendum.
Waweru, who co-chairs the BBI Secretariat, called on the court to expedite the anti-BBI cases so the referendum roadmap is not disrupted.
“We beseech you to read the moods of the people, the spirit of BBI with its message of unity, inclusivity and more resources to the people. BBI being a popular initiative should be allowed to be subjected to the approval of mwananchi,” Waweru appealed.
The former lawmaker said the overwhelming support the initiative got from the assemblies indicates the people’s wishes.
Ruto’s allies have downplayed the impact of the near-unanimous approval of the bill by the assemblies, insisting they had rejected a push by their rivals to frame a ‘Yes versus No’ battle.
The DP’s confidants warned rivals not to expect a contested referendum.
In what appeared to be the Tangatanga approach to the referendum, the DP’s allies hinted at allowing Kenyans to decide on their own.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a close Ruto ally, signalled the DP’s camp was not ready for an Us-versus-Them contest, saying pro-BBI forces are on their own.
“Why are BBI promoters excited and overjoyed? When you are running on your own? How are you celebrating that you won?” Murkomen tweeted.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, a Ruto ally, said the Bill is likely to be met by voter apathy.
He said though the Bill was bulldozed through assemblies, it is largely unpopular and Kenyans may not turn out to vote.
“When the document is subjected to a referendum, the probability is it will be passed by a minority. It is very unpopular with the public. There will be serious apathy. People will not turn up to vote,” Linturi said.
The senator said that even if the referendum passes – and it will because there will be little opposition – it will not reflect the outcome of the 2022 presidential contest that he said Ruto will win.
“The outcome of the BBI process does not determine the outcome of the 2022 presidential election. The BBI may end up being uncontested because you may not find a group of YES versus NO,” he said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said they foresaw a scenario where proponents of the BBI would use the referendum outcome to build momentum against Ruto.
“Kenyans to take time and critique the document so they can make informed decisions. The hustler nation’s position on BBI is the same – it’s not a priority,” he said.
In other news – Ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM extends deadline for party’s 2022 presidential applications
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM has pushed by a month the deadline for the presidential candidate applications. Initially, aspirants had up to February 26 to apply for the party’s flag bearer in the 2022 presidential elections.
ODM National Elections Board chairperson Catherine Mumma Thursday announced that interest applicants now have up to March 31 to tender their application letters. Learn More