Kenya lost in verdict on Building Bridges Initiative, Uhuru says
by Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
Kenyans lost. That was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reaction to the Court of Appeal decision overturning the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Despite the setback, Uhuru said he was hopeful the proposals, contained in the project born out of his handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga, will be implemented in future.
He said short term political interest stood in the way of an initiative he believes would have helped address the country’s pressing challenges, notably divisive elections and inequality in distribution of resources.
After a protracted dispute over the outcome of 2017 presidential election, Uhuru and Raila reached a truce and kick-started a national debate revolving around the nine-point agenda.
The challenges captured under the BBI included corruption, devolution, inclusivity, divisive elections, security, responsibilities and rights, shared prosperity and lack of a national ethos.
The BBI had among other things proposed expansion of the Executive to ensure inclusivity, allocation of more resources to grassroots, additional constituencies and a fund for the youth.
However, the seven-judge bench on Friday declared the initiative, which had been endorsed by county assemblies and Parliament, unconstitutional.
“The biggest disappointment is what the people have lost. And what the courts have done. This is not my baby.
This is the people’s baby. If those things we envisaged did not happen now they will happen in the future,” Uhuru said on Monday evening during a conversation with senior editors at State House.
“What is important is whether the issues are just and fair. Our interest is to build a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous nation,” he said.
“I believe we have denied Kenyans their resources, we have denied Kenyans equity, we have denied funds to go to mashinani (grassroot) through the Ward fund.”
“I will not give up. I always believe that one must fight for those things he believes in whether in office or outside.
I will continue to fight and advocate for those things that I believe in and I believe strongly that as a country, we need to be fair, we need to shed this ethnic umbrella.”
For the first time, Uhuru dared his deputy William Ruto to resign for opposing a government in which he serves.
“The honourable thing is that if you are not happy with it, step aside and allow those who want to move on to do so and take your agenda to the people,” Uhuru said.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t, on the one hand, say I am not going and at the same time that you don’t agree.”
Uhuru told Ruto that he “must decide and be principled” in respect of quitting office if he is dissatisfied.
“This is so that you don’t confuse people that on one hand you want to praise the government and yet on the other side of your mouth you’re talking another language.”
“I would hope that people would have the courage to do that instead of throwing stones in the same house that you live in,” he told the editors.
The President said he did not know why Ruto’s side had chosen to attack him but maintained the criticism would not derail his agenda.
He denied knowledge of a scheme or talks to postpone the 2022 General Election and raised questions on how the Court of Appeal expects IEBC to conduct polls and yet it said it has no quorum.
“I have no comment on postponement of elections, but if indeed what the appellate court ruled on BBI is anything to go by, in effect they are telling us that we will not have a General Election in 2022, because IEBC is not well constituted,” Uhuru said.
“I don’t want to comment on that but let’s wait how it unfolds. I am ready to have elections at a prescribed time, as I have said before. August 9, 2022 that is the schedule I am working on,” the President added.
However, the DP yesterday said he was going nowhere.
“I want to tell them (that) I am a man on a mission. I have no space to retreat and don’t have the luxury of surrendering.
I am a man on a mission to ensure that the jobless, those who are running small businesses, the many farmers who are struggling become part of our nation and that Kenyans cannot be a preserve for leaders,” he responded at a funeral in Kwale.
Uhuru spoke barely three days after the appellate judges said the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which captures the BBI proposals was unconstitutional and usurped the people’s sovereign power.
In a stinging judgment, the court declared that the President had no authority to initiate an amendment of constitution through the popular route.
“The popular initiative cannot be used by the government or the people’s representatives. Popular initiative is for ordinary Kenyans,” said the judges.
The Friday decision, which has elicited mixed reactions, was delivered by Court of Appeal President Daniel Musinga and justices Roselyne Nambuye, Hannah Okwengu, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu, Fatuma Sichale and Francis Tuiyott.
During Monday’s interview, Uhuru also discounted claims that the BBI was a scheme to extend his stay in power by postponing elections as well as influence the 2022 succession.
“BBI has nothing to do with Uhuru wanting to continue because there is no clause in BBI that says that the incumbent President is going to continue for another 10 years. There is no clause. This is all propaganda to poison the people’s minds.”
He faulted the judgment that the IEBC lacked quorum having been conducting elections including that of Justice Musinga as President of the Court of Appeal.
The President wondered how the Court of Appeal expects IEBC to conduct polls and yet judges said it is not quorate.
Uhuru used the meeting to make a passionate appeal to Kenyans to come out in large numbers and get Covid-19 vaccine.
While acknowledging the debilitating effect the pandemic has had on the economy, the President said Kenya is faring much better than other regional economies because of early safeguards.
“Kenya has fared better than many countries in the face of Covid shocks,” Uhuru said.
He said all vaccines will be administered for free in order to ensure that as many Kenyans as possible are inoculated.