Deputy President Ruto allies weigh options on BBI report

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei. Photo/PD/FILE

Mercy Mwai and Hilary Mageka

Allies of Deputy President William Ruto were yesterday considering a number of options to take just a day after their colleagues were denied entry to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) retreat in Naivasha.

Among the options on the table are intensified lobbying to have the report amended to address all the contentious issues, refusing to take part in the BBI process as well as setting up a ‘No’ team to oppose the report at a referendum.

Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi), Milicent Omanga (Nominated) and MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and Cornely Serem (Aldai) said it is too early for people to talk about the referendum.

Although the legislators said they are still consulting on the way forward, they were categorical they are not opposed to the BBI report as of now. Instead, they are pushing to have amendments to the report.

And in a tweet, Ruto who has been doing countrywide political rallies to drum up support for his hustler narrative announced the postponement of his meetings due to the Covid-19 cases upsurge.

“The upsurge in Covid-19 cases strongly indicates that a second wave may be in the offing. For this reason I have decided to significantly scale down my public engagements until further notice.

The empowerment meetings for this weekend in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni are postponed,” read the tweet.

Among the issues the Ruto team is pushing to have amended before the collection of a million signatures are changes in boundaries review that will see some regions having more representatives in Parliament, the mandate of the Senate, the expansion of the executive, the involvement of political parties in the nomination of electoral commissioners, the independence of police and the judiciary (citing the Kenya Police Council and the Judiciary Ombudsman, both headed by presidential appointees).

But speaking to People Daily yesterday, Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya came out to clarify why some of the MPs were left out of the Naivasha meeting.

He said due to limited space they only invited members who support the BBI report. “We had space of between 200 to 250 people, we could not invite everyone, plus you don’t invite enemies to your house, you invite your friends first.”

Kimunya explained that only MPs who received formal invitations were allowed to participate in the retreat in Naivasha on Monday. 

He made it clear that Kakamega Senator Cleopa Malala was denied entry to the venue because he had no invitation.

He took issue with the presence of Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina at the retreat, saying he was not invited.

“The only person I saw was Kina and up to now I don’t know how he sneaked into the meeting,” he said.

During the retreat attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga, the team agreed that Kenyans will go to the referendum to change the Constitution by June if the proposals sail through.

According to the roadmap, IEBC should have held the referendum by June 6, with President Uhuru expected to assent to the amendments to the constitution on or before June 14.

But on their part, Ruto’s allies said there is need for consensus to be built before Kenyans are subjected to a vote.

Cherargei said it was important that consensus is build, saying despite the pronouncement in Naivasha, he remained hopeful there is still room for accommodation.

“We have no option but to build consensus, I know the president and ODM leader Raila Odinga are worried about going into a referendum before August because of the 2022 arithmetic,” he stated.

Asked whether they will openly oppose BBI, Cherargei replied: “ We will cross that bridge when we reach there, the door for consultation is still open.”

 Kindiki, another Ruto ally, said looking at the Naivasha retreat, it was clear the pretense that BBI was about uniting Kenyans and building bridges across the board is over.

“For two years, the country’s significant resources and attention have been wasted in a purely partisan process whose single objective is to prop one side in the oncoming Ruto-Raila presidential election duel.

What has eventually happened is exactly what some of us had predicted would happen right from 9th March 2018, the day the Jubilee Party died. We are ready.”

Barasa said although they are still persuading their colleagues to allow changes to be made, as MPs supporting changes they will meet to take a position on their next move should their efforts continue to be rejected.

“We will continue to persuade them to include the amendments and build consensus but if they will not meet them then we will be ready to meet them on the ground.

We are however going to do a comprehensive media briefing once we are done with our consultations but just know that as of now we have about 120 Mps who are thinking the same way.”

Serem said as of now they do not want to subject Kenyans to a contested referendum as Omanga termed the talk about referendum premature.

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