President rallies support for BBI to end poll chaos

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Some BBI Steering Committee members from left Yusuf Haji (chair), Adams Oloo and Paul Mwangi (joint secretary). Photo/PD/FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta used yesterday’s Mashujaa Day celebrations to rally support for constitutional reforms to enhance inclusivity and bring an end to violence during elections.

Pushing the case for the need to change the Constitution ahead of the 2022 elections, the President appeared to take a swipe at Deputy President William Ruto for his repeated assertions that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was geared towards creating positions for certain individuals.

“On the one part, the question is political inclusion. Instead of a zero-sum constitutional equation, can we adopt a positive-sum equation?

Can we adopt a constitutional arrangement that takes care of our diversity as a people?” The President posed.


The BBI project aims to unite Kenyans and foster inclusion. It is a product of the March 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Yesterday, Uhuru took to the podium shortly after Ruto invited him to speak at the event that only saw the duo as well as Raila, Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Interior Cabinet Secretary  Fred Matiang’i address Kenyans.

“And on this, we should not give my suggestion the parochial interpretation of creating positions for individuals.

I am only urging for a constitutional consensus that accommodates all communities in an election.

A consensus that makes it possible for any Kenyan to lead this country. Working hand-in-hand with his or her brothers and sisters from across the nation,” he said.

Speaking in Nyamira last week, Ruto hit out at BBI proponents, saying they were self-seekers out to create positions for themselves. 

The DP claimed that too much focus was being put on BBI at the expense of the Big Four Agenda set out by the Jubilee government to free Kenyans from poverty. He also suggested that the report was being forced on Kenyans.

“I am asking Kenyans to say no to BBI because what we need is to empower youths but not political leaders by creating positions for them.

Our focus as a country should be about empowering the lives of the majority of Kenyans and not to look for political positions,” said Ruto.

Speaking before inviting the President to deliver his keynote address, Ruto took a dig at Raila, saying the BBI campaign must be inclusive.

“My friend, the former Prime Minister, has told us about the reggae, which is fine.

But I guess we will have a robust national conversation that will bring everybody on board,” Ruto said.

Addressing yesterday’s celebrations at Gusii Stadium in Kisii, the President maintained the country was staring at a constitutional moment.

“And the national question goes back to the advent of our multi-party system.

For indeed, it was after the re-introduction of political pluralism in 1992 that negative politics begun to dominate our national arena,” the Head of the State said.

“The question at hand and one requiring a constitutional consensus is, therefore, this: How do we resolve the winner-take-all situation within a context of competitive politics as required by democratic practice?

And how do we ensure we fulfil our democratic credentials without ripping apart the diversity of our nation-state? This question of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ must come to an end.”

Uhuru also acknowledged the presence of Opposition leaders Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula as well as the top leadership of Parliament, thanking them for attending the event despite their varied political persuasions.

It is Raila who set the tone for the constitutional changes debate when he told the gathering that the “BBI reggae” would shortly resume after a “half time” break occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19 in March. 

Former Premier reminded the gathering that the “BBI reggae” was launched at a rally held at the Gusii Stadium earlier this year before heading to Kakamega, then Mombasa, Kitui, Garissa, Meru and was headed to Nakuru when the pandemic struck.

“We had to go for half time. The half time is now over. The players have been given some pep talk and received some massage.

We are now heading to the second half. Nobody can stop reggae,” he told the crowd as he concluded his speech.

Political teams

Politics of the Kieleweke team, which is allied to the Handshake and the rival Tanga Tanga wing that backs Ruto played out in the stadium, with several local politicians allied to the DP, led by Kisii Deputy governor Joash Maangi making a point of receiving him at the Kisii High School grounds and escorting him to the stadium, about three kilometres away.  

Governor Ongwae, who is allied to the Handshake team, however, had the presence of mind to introduce the Ruto team that included some MPs from Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Matiang’i, who spoke after the President’s keynote address, gave an update on the National Integrated Identification Management System (NIIMS) popularly known as Huduma Namba.

Matiang’i, who hails from the region, used the opportunity to give the President and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta the inaugural Huduma Namba cards ahead of the rollout once Parliament approves the nominee for the position of Data Commissioner.

 In his address, Uhuru maintained that whereas the 2010 Constitution gave the country some remedies on governance, it never resolved “the zero-sum game in which the winner takes it all and the loser goes home with nothing”.

“Are we still in the zero-sum constitutional dispensation that created conflict since the advent of multi-party politics in 1992?

And how do we expect to resolve this problem using elections instead of constitutional change?” He posed.

He warned that it would be a “tragedy” if, come the next elections, “we will not have resolved this dilemma”.

While saying that his push for constitutional change is about equity in distribution of opportunities and resources, Uhuru called for an end to the premature campaigns going on in the country.

He again appeared to aim at Ruto when he said premature campaigns were creating an environment not conducive for business.

 “We are called to create an environment where enterprise can thrive by continuously attracting capital into the country.

Premature campaigns and endless electioneering create anxiety, akin to what we are witnessing creeping into our nation today,” he said.

“And if we do not change it now, when we have a constitutional moment, this problem will plague our country for years on end.

My invitation to the country, therefore, is to have an honest conversation with itself on this. And we must not shy away from taking bold decisions the way our founding fathers did.”

Covid-19 heroes

In his 30-minute address, the President also honoured Covid-19 heroes for paying the ultimate price.

They included departed health workers like as Dr Doreen Lugaliki of Nairobi South Hospital, Clifford Mburia of Kitengela Medical Centre, Moses Ringera of the University of Nairobi Health Services and Marian Awuor of Rachuonyo Hospital, among others.

Head of State also lauded the technological achievements of about 800 young men and women whom he had invited to Manyani, Taita Taveta, last week.

He noted that the young innovators not only delivered high quality work, but also did so at a fraction of the set cost.

“The team of over 800 young men and women, drawn from across the republic, have undertaken seminal programmes that include; the National Wide Airborne Geophysical Survey, the Geospatial Project, the Cyber Project, Drones and the National Security Industrial Project,” he said.

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