BBI endorsement passes 1.5 million signature mark
Bernard Gitau and David Musundi
Barely four days after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) signature collection kicked off across the country, at least 1.5 million Kenyans have so far endorsed the constitutional amendment proposals.
Buoyed by the seemingly positive reception of the Constitution Bill by Kenyans, the BBI secretariat is now hoping to close the first phase of the road towards a national referendum by end of the week and move onto the next stage.
A joint statement yesterday by the BBI secretariat co-chairs Dennis Waweru and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said Kenyans had welcomed the Bill with enthusiasm.
“We, therefore, project that we shall be done with the exercise by end of the week and move to the next step,” they said.
The two said that save for Deputy President William Ruto and his allies, the initiative had received overwhelming support from leaders across the country, who have been rallying Kenyans to endorse it.
Ruto, who has been leading a brigade opposed to the constitutional amendment initiative, has lately softened his stand and praised changes in the final Bill. He has lately intensified calls for consensus to avoid a divisive referendum.
“It is never too late to do the right thing. Tremendous progress achieved. Consensus on the remaining issues and process so as to have a non-divisive vote is the best option,” Ruto tweeted in response to a newspaper headline that said he had been “cornered”.
But yesterday, the BBI secretariat urged Kenyans to ignore calls from the opponents of the exercise and instead turn out in large numbers and append their signatures.
The secretariat expects to have collected at least two million signatures by today morning.
“Making the country’s Constitution is a patriotic duty and not a political campaign and, therefore, we would want to emphasise that no citizen should be left behind,” Junet said.
With more than 1.5 million signatures collected by Sunday, the secretariat has hit the requisite 1 million signatures required by the Constitution to endorse the initiative, but they must be verified by the electoral agency.
According to the action plan, the secretariat is expected to submit the signatures and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on December 9 for verification.
After the verification, the Bill will proceed to the country’s 47 county assemblies.
It will require a majority vote of 24 counties to approve it before it is sent back to Parliament.
If Parliament approves the Amendment Bill, it will be sent to the electoral commission which will come up with a referendum question for Kenyans to vote either for or against it.
Yesterday, Junet said signature collection is expected to end on Thursday. The secretariat appealed to “hardliners” to take time and read the Bill, saying they will realise it’s a well thought out document that will change the country for the better.
“This document is not about President Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga, it is about the prosperity and posterity of our great country,” said Junet.
He urged Kenyans not to oppose the Bill out of ignorance or dislike for a certain individual.
Ruto has recently indicated he may support the iniative because the issues he had raised were captured in the final document.
Though his change of heart has elicited varied reactions, yesterday the DP took to twitter to sarcastically criticise those who are claiming he had been “cornered”.
“Cornered? Not as easy as you think my friends. Scaling the stairs while chewing gum we do without a problem.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. Tremendous progress achieved. Consensus on remaining issues and process so as to have non-divisive vote best option,” Ruto said.
Meanwhile, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa yesterday launched the signature collection in Trans Nzoia county and asked residents to support the drive.
The CS and county governor Patrick Khaemba rallied residents to back the exercise, saying it provides economic and political solutions to all Kenyans irrespective of political, social, economic and spiritual inclinations.
Speaking during the launch at Kitale showground, Eugene said the constitutional changes proposed by BBI would enhance inclusivity and political stability.
He said the passage of the constitutional reforms would cultivate peace and help the country achieve economic and political goals. The BBI had provided a solution to political turmoil witnessed in the country during previous polls, he noted.
“The spirit of BBI is to bring more money to the counties, enhance inclusivity and provide a solution to political violence,” he said.
During the launch, Minority leader Emmanuel Waswa sharply differed with Kinyoro MCA Lawrence Mogusu over creation of two more constituencies.
Mogusu sparked the feud when he claimed there was a plan by certain communities to grab the two additional seats.
“It is unfortunate that one community has started a campaign to clinch the two parliamentary seats. One of the seats should be reserved to our community to enhance co-existence,” said Mogusu.
In Nandi, more than 5,000 residents signed in support of the drive.
County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding while addressing the media yesterday said they expect to have collected at least 20,000 signatures in the area by end of today. “BBI has many good things targeting especially the youth and women, touching on shared prosperity and inclusivity,” said Omoding.
The official said few people who are against the signature drive cannot stifle the people’s voice and resolve, adding that residents are looking forward to the gains they will get by supporting BBI.
Earlier, Nandi Hills MCA Gideon Koech had voiced opposition to the exercise, claiming it was using government machinery which could have been channeled to push for other issues rather than BBI.
The exercise comes against the backdrop of Governor Stephen Sang’s declaration two weeks ago that there would be no collection of signatures in the county since no one supports BBI.