Defining week as country awaits court verdict on BBI

Monday, August 16th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga display BBI document when they toured Kisii County to popularise the document. Photo/PD/File

 This Friday, August 20,  is a defining date for the fate of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). 

The train of the BBI would be back on course immediately if the appellate court renders a favourable ruling.

After a spirited fight during the oral hearing of the case, the BBI proponents put up a strong case on why they think the High Court judges erred in their ruling, that nullified the process of the Constitutional Amendment bill 2020.

There are fears that the case could go up to the Supreme Court since either of the parties is likely to move to the apex court to challenge the outcome.

Yesterday former co-secretary to the BBI team lawyer Paul Mwangi exuded confidence that they would get a favourable ruling from the seven-judge Bench led by Court of Appeal President David Musinga.

“Our legal team put up a strong case at the Court of Appeal during the hearings. We expect a favourable ruling.

Should the court rule in our favour, the BBI train will be back almost immediately,” said Mwangi.

Legal process

Aware that the ruling could also not be favourable, Mwangi told People Dailythat, they will make a decision there after.

He said in any legal process, the ruling may go either way and should the court rule against them, they will chart a new path.

“We will cross the bridge when we reach there. For now, we are optimistic that we will resume our activities,” Mwangi said.

But should the Court of Appeal annul BBI, its proponents will have to go back to the drawing board to craft a winning formula in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is set to retire in August next year.

An unfavourable ruling could scuttle everything President Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga, and their associates have been driving and give political fodder to the opponents of the initiative led by Deputy President William Ruto and a section of the civil society.

Most political heavyweights and regional leaders had hoped they would leverage on an expanded Executive under the BBI, to build bigger alliances for 2022.

A bigger executive means more plum jobs to promise and give out to build alliances and appease communities across the country.

Professor Macharia Munene of United States International University-Africa, the ruling on BBI would be a defining moment for the country, since whichever way it is made, it will determine the next course of 2022 politics.

“While the President Uhuru and Raila group are waiting for the ruling to be in their favour so that they can finalise their plans to cobble up a formidable coalition; the DP’s side is waiting for the petition to be shot down so that the dreams of those wishing for a coalition against him dwindle,” says Macharia.

On the one hand, lawyer John Khaminwa, who was one of the lawyers who represented civil society, was upbeat yesterday saying the court could decide the case in the interest of the Kenyan majority.

“Going by my experience in the legal fraternity, I don’t see reasons why judges should not be compelled by our arguments.

The case was very straight forward, the President was in contempt of the law. The court will stop the whole process,” said Khaminwa.

ODM chairman John Mbadi, on the other hand, said the reggae team is fully prepared to kick-start the process once the court rules in their favour.

“You have heard it from the two principals; the President and Raila that reggae beats are scheduled to return on course.

You can be assured that we shall be back in full steam beginning next week. There is no more time to waste as we have to hit the road running,” said Mbadi.

A number of cases that are challenging the BBI were consolidated and heard together. The Supreme Court declined to hear the applications for an advisory opinion that had been lodged in the court.

Pending the determination of the consolidated petitions, a five-judge High Court Bench comprising Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Janet Mulwa and Chacha Mwita had issued orders barring the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) “from facilitating and subjecting the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, to a referendum” pending determination of the petitions filed against the BBI.

After oral submissions at the Court of Appeal, Justice Musinga announced that a seven-judge Bench would deliver its judgement on the appeal case.

Musinga said the Bench had made careful deliberations as the four-day hearing came to a close.

“We deliberated on this date, looking at the nature of the matter and volumes before us. We will deliver the judgement on August 20,” Justice Musinga said.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes the creation of the office of the Prime Minister with two deputies —all appointed by the President.

The Bill also proposes the creation of the powerful office of the leader of the official opposition, funded by the Exchequer.

The BBI proponents say this is meant to address exclusion, winner take it all and ensure national harmony after a General Election.

However, the hopes may go up in smoke if the Court of Appeal upholds the High Court ruling that annulled the BBI process.

A proposal in BBI for the creation of an Ombudsman in the Judiciary is also said to have caused jitters within the courts, with fears that it could empower the Chief Justice to arbitrarily sack judges and judicial officers.

Uhuru and Odinga — had promoted constitutional amendments to restore national harmony, deal with graft and address electoral injustices.

More on News