Raila: We have Sh2b for BBI vote
ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday maintained that a referendum on the Constitution would be held before the 2022 General Election, assuring that the Sh2 billion required to hold it was available.
He at the same time dismissed calls that the referendum be held together with the general election, insisting the vote to change the Constitution must be conducted separately and before the polls.
He launched a thinly-veiled attack on Deputy President William Ruto, who in the past has appeared to suggest it was not economically viable to hold a referendum, a boundary review and a general election in the space of five years.
Speaking when he witnessed the swearing in of newly appointed officials of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) National Elections Board and a Disciplinary Committee at the party’s headquarters in Chungwa House, Nairobi, Raila said it was next to impossible to hold a referendum and a general election concurrently.
“If there is need for a country to do a referendum, the country does it. It has been done before in European countries, which are civilised democracies.
Why do Kenyans not want it?” he asked, wondering why some people are opposed to the idea of a plebiscite.
“Ask the British, in a short time they held a referendum and shortly after had their general elections but because of corruption in this country, elections have become an expensive affair.
“Why are we being told to do it together with general elections? How are you going to do it together with a General Election of six ballots and add one more ballot on top, which is a burden to the illiterate voter; it will not work that way,” he said, reiterating that a referendum must be held before the elections.
The opposition chief allayed fears that a referendum would be too expensive to conduct, saying it should cost less than Sh2 billion.
In the US, for instance, Raila said, the cost of a ballot is 40 cents, while in a majority of countries in Europe the cost of a single ballot can range between 30 cents and 60 cents.
He noted that with a single ballot costing 50 cents, the cost of ballots enough for Kenya’s 20 million registered voters would be Sh1 billion.
“Yet, here in Kenya, it costs us more than Sh40 billion to do an election. To add insult to injury, we had a repeat presidential election and in excess of Sh10 billion was used despite the fact that there were no new ballots,” Raila said, terming the inflated cost of elections as theft of public funds.
He said Kenyans should not be told there is no money to hold a referendum.
“There is money to do it and we will teach IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati how to do it if he will be still in charge,” he said, insisting that as ODM, they were going to “show them how to do it”.
Raila also assured Kenyans that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has been ongoing and that together with President Uhuru Kenyatta, they will soon unveil the final report which will set the stage for the referendum.
“We are going to receive the report, myself and President Uhuru Kenyatta, and we will make it public,” he stated, adding with a light touch that the ‘BBI Reggae’ had not stopped but was on half time.
“The players have been getting massage and instructions from their respective coaches and we are also doing an overhaul of the teams, shortly reggae shall be back and nobody can stop reggae,” he added.
Raila said that he and the President believe that the BBI will unite the country and help in improving the governance structure. He assured that all issues raised by Kenyans during the BBI validation process will be addressed in the report and implemented.
“It is not the desire of anyone to make it difficult and costly than it is currently, we have been told that there is no money for referendum and it is expensive to hold one, and some people are talking of billions spent on BBI, I am left wondering where did the billions come from,” he held insisting that there were no billions but “few coins” involved in the BBI project.
Raila also downplayed the debate on the so-called Deep State, following claims by Deputy President Ruto that he is ready to face it in the 2022 elections.
The former Prime Minister said he is not qualified to speak on the matter as he does not hold any position in government.
“If you are talking of deep state, who is there? He asked. “It is the President and his deputy, so go and ask William Ruto, ‘which deep state are you talking about?’
As ODM we are not in government and we don’t know of the existence of the deep state.”
“But as ODM and from experience we know where we want to go,” he added, noting that the Orange party knows where it is coming from and where it is going.
“The purpose of BBI is to ensure Kenyans have free, fair and transparent elections, and no Kenyan blood is shed because of elections,” Raila said.
During the ceremony, Florence Omosa, Mumbi Ng’aru, Seth Kakusye, Ramadhani Abubakar and Ben Sihanya were sworn in as members of the Disciplinary Committee, with Prof Sihanya as the chair.
Catherine Mumma replaced Senator Judy Pareno as the chairperson of the National Elections Board. Other members are Syntei Nchoe, Abdulahi Mohammed Diriye, Emily Awita and Richard Tairo.