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BBI popularity campaigns to be rolled out

By Eric Wainaina
Friday, January 15th, 2021
ODM leader Raila Odinga participates in traditional Kikuyu prayers in Kiambu county during BBI popularization tour attended by small scale traders from Githurai market. Photo/PD/KENNA CLAUDE
In summary
    • Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is set to kick off countrywide rallies to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) project
    • A poll released last month showed that only 29 per cent of registered voters would vote in support of the document if a referendum were to be held today,
    • Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata has said the BBI is unpopular within Mt Kenya.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is set to kick off countrywide rallies to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) project ahead of the planned referendum later in the year.

Yesterday, Raila held a meeting with the Kikuyu Council of Elders led by their chairman Wachira Kiago in Ruaka, Nairobi during which various ways of popularising the BBI report in the Mt Kenya region ahead of the referendum were discussed.

On Wednesday, Raila also held talks with youth leaders from Nairobi County at Ufungamano House to discuss ways of promoting the document among the youth in the country.

The meeting was attended by members of the BBI secretariat led by its co-chair, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed.

Earlier in the week, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader also held a meeting with dozens of artistes from the Mt Kenya region in Nairobi’s Milimani area during which the need to popularise the BBI report featured prominently. In attendance was the chairman of the Royal Media Services (RMS) SK Macharia.

Raila’s latest campaign comes in the wake of growing opposition to the BBI project especially among supporters of Deputy President William Ruto and sections of religious groups.

Sources within the BBI secretariat, who sought anonymity for fear of appearing to bad-mouth the project, revealed that the veteran Opposition leader and leading BBI proponents had been rattled by reports that the public mood was currently against the document and would oppose it during the referendum.

“The feedback is not pleasant at all, there is work to be done, serious work for that matter and the earlier we start (the campaigns) the better otherwise we may end up with egg on our faces,” the source said.

Raila sustained his push even as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) dismissed Wednesday’s claims of sabotage by Junet. 

“The allegations that the commission is sabotaging the process is not only unfortunate, but also completely false.

The process of signature verification is part of the IEBC mandate as articulated in Article 257 of the Constitution and therefore the commission cannot sabotage it,” the commission said in a statement signed by chairman Wafula Chebukati.

The campaigns, which appear to be a joint initiative of Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta and their allies, also comes hot on the heels of a not so flattering survey by polling firm TIFA and a letter by Senate Majority whip Irungu Kang’ata, both of which painted a grim picture of dwindling support for the BBI project even in regions perceived as strongholds of the two principals such as Mt Kenya, Western and Coast.

TIFA’s poll, which was released last week, for instance, showed that only 29 per cent of registered voters would vote in support of the document if a referendum were to be held today, with 32 per cent of Kenyans voting “No”.

The survey conducted between December 8 and 19 last year, put BBI’s familiarity nationwide at 15 per cent with 31 per cent of respondents preferring a referendum after the 2022 General Election only 12 per cent said they would prefer it to be held alongside the next General Election, an outcome that has emboldened the DP’s camp which has been rallying Kenyans to reject the proposed law review.

“This means there is still a considerable work that needs to be done by champions of both of yes or no campaigns to win over Kenyans to their side,” the survey concluded.

Opposed BBI

The poll showed that save for Nyanza region, Raila’s political bedrock, majority of voters in other regions were opposed to the project.

Kang’ata, in a letter to the President dated December 30 last year also told a survey he had conducted and which revealed that out of every 10 persons he had picked randomly in Murang’a, six are opposed to the initiative with only two expressing their support for it. The remaining two remain indifferent, according to Kang’ata’s survey.

Addressing the youths at Ufungamano House on Wednesday, Raila said the BBI proponents will crisscross the country to drum up support for the project ahead of the referendum.

“We want to start from the grassroots so that we can drum up support for BBI. From here, we will go to Machakos, Mombasa, Lodwar, Narok, Mandera, Eldoret and other places to campaign for it and to tell Kenyans that a new dawn has come and that the cockerel has crowed…. BBI is the foundation of dealing with issues affecting the country but there is too much propaganda being peddled,” Raila told the youth leaders.

Sources in Raila’s camp said they would set out to counter the anti-BBI narrative being advanced by the DP’s supporters to the effect that the passage of the report’s recommendations would increase the wage bill by creating more positions.

Addressing the youths, Raila discounted such an argument, saying the new seats being created in the executive such as the Premier and two deputy premiers will be held by MPs who will get extra allowances while ministers will also be MPs.

Speaking at the same meeting, Junet warned Ruto and his allies to brace for a bruising battle once they launch the BBI campaigns.

“As the BBI promoters, we are yet to launch the BBI campaign. We have just dealt with collection of signatures and IEBC.

We will be starting the campaign very soon,” Junet said, a position that was backed by Waweru.