BBI signatures handover deals blow to consensus

Thursday, December 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Anthony Omwandu, a Mombasa resident participates in the collection of BBI signatures at the Treasury Square on Saturday. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Eric Wainaina and Nancy Gitau

The push by Deputy President William Ruto and Catholic Bishops for changes to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is set to suffer a major blow today when the secretariat will present referendum signatures to the national election agency—without any amendments to the document.

Announcing the decision, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and his co-chair in the secretariat Dennis Waweru said the signatures will be presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with “no changes by way of additions or subtraction and there is agreement to that effect”.

Signatures will be deposited alongside the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2010 that is set to be subjected to a referendum.

This effectively continues to close the window for negotiations with the Ruto camp, which has been pushing for the opening of the document to create what they describe as “consensus”.

BBI architects, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have, however, rebuffed the calls, saying Ruto and his supporters had plundered the opportunity to present their case to the taskforce that was chaired by Yusuf Haji, the Senator from Garissa.

Yesterday, Junet dismissed Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata claims that has been meeting with Ruto’s allies to iron out contentious issues.

“There are a lot of busy bodies claiming to be having a 12-member committee, as a secretariat we are not aware of that.

Our mandate is very clear, we have a Bill, we have 5.2 million signatures, we have a date with IEBC, we have a date with county assemblies and we have a date with Kenyans in the form of a referendum,” Junet said.

High Court Justice Jairus Ngaah yesterday declined a request to stop the electoral body from receiving and verifying signatures in support of the process until all Kenyans living in the diaspora are accommodated.

The petition was filed by US-based Kenyan James Gitau, who argued that those in the diaspora had not been involved in the national campaign.

Gitau had moved to court seeking to restrain IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati from receiving the signatures.

“Restrain the IEBC chair from commencing any verification of the partially collected signatures until it complied with the court orders and avails the opportunity for voter registration of the Diaspora including Gitau’s area in Dallas before holding any referendum or General elections,” says Gitau.

He also wanted an order of prohibition to restrain IEBC from holding any referendum until it complied with orders from the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Instead, Justice Ngaah certified the case as urgent and directed the petitioner to serve IEBC, the Speakers of National Assembly and Senate and the matter to be mentioned on January 19, 2021 for direction.

Kang’ata had been quoted in the media announcing that a team of MPs allied to President Uhuru and Ruto have been holding talks “in good faith” with a view to reaching a compromise on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2010.

But according to Junet, everyone had an opportunity to present their views to the task force during the last three years, adding that opening the Bill for negotiations will not only derail the process but also waste Kenyans’ time.

Two years

“Kenyans were engaged for two good years and a report presented. From that report, an amendment Bill was generated and that is the document that we shall be presenting to IEBC tomorrow together with the signatures.

Those people who are giving their views now, it is too late. The process must move forward. Kenyan cannot be held at ransom using this BBI,” he said.

A total of 893,792 signatures were collected in Nyanza, Eastern (842,000), Rift Valley (817,000), central (793,135) while in Coast 745,033, Western (525,000), Nairobi (506,048) and 161,000 from North Eastern although Junet said the numbers could be whittled down to 3.2 million after the verification process.

The BBI team took a dig on the DP over his push to have the plebiscite conducted through multiple-choice questions.

They say the Constitution provides for a Bill not questions, adding that the current Bill has 78 issues that cannot be presented as multiple-choice questions.

“Meanwhile, other members of our team are undertaking civic education on the Bill in various parts of the country to help deepen understanding of the document and to ensure Kenyans internalise the issues therein and therefore can make informed decisions during the referendum,” Waweru said.

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