Divisive referendum will have ‘no winners’, Ruto tells Raila

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020 00:00 | By
Deputy President William Ruto with members of Wajir County Assembly at his official residence, Karen, Nairobi County. Photo/DPPS


Deputy President William Ruto yesterday hit back at Opposition leader Raila Odinga over his challenge to critics of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report to oppose it during the referendum, saying such a contest will only result in a lose-lose situation to the country. 

Ruto warned there will be no winners in a referendum pitting groups supporting the document and those opposed to it, and insisted that Raila and his allies must tone down their stance and allow for consensus building to avoid a divisive referendum.

He regretted that the costly two-year product had turned out to be “highly controversial and with so many glaring gaps.”

“Those driving the BBI should not tell Kenyans that they have no time for further amendments. If we cannot enrich the document, then we would end up with a bad Constitution because its work was entirely unprofessional,” he said.

Need to improve

Speaking at his Karen residence in Nairobi County  yesterday when he met Members of the County Assembly of Wajir, led by its Majority Leader Mohamud Gabane and Minority Leader Abdi Hussein, Ruto stated that for the country to rally behind BBI, there was an urgent need to improve its presentation and content.

“If we are trying to sort out the problem of divisive elections leading to a divided country via BBI, why then are we after a divisive referendum that would end up tearing apart the country,?” he posed.

He spoke a day after Raila told off in strong words persons opposed to the report.

While Ruto, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, the church, members of the county assemblies (MCAs), governors and pastoralist communities have called for changes to the BBI report before a referendum is held, Raila and leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta have said the document should be voted on as it is, with the option of opposing or endorsing it, as a whole.

“It is going to be a very democratic process. We welcome those who have got issues with it. Let us meet in the field. Let the people of Kenya decide. My view is that the people of Kenya, at a critical moment, will make the correct decision,” said Raila after he met Western governors in the company of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa in Kisumu on Sunday.

But speaking yesterday, Ruto said there should be no rush in the process “if we are serious and mean well for this country”.

“Could we be after a different outcome from the BBI other than the cohesiveness of our country?”

The Deputy President said by the look of things, it was clear some quarters were pushing for a YES-NO referendum for political reasons that targets the 2022 polls. 

“Kenyans should not participate in this constricted agenda. Why should we railroad people to go to the presumed NO camp when we can all engage and have a consensus,?” he explained.

With the coronavirus intensely destroying livelihoods and taking away lives, the Ruto said it was time the country’s leadership was united and mobilised resources towards confronting the outbreak rather than campaign for BBI which can be put on hold.

Gabane and Hussein said Wajir County Assembly would not support a BBI that does not give prominence to the needs of the people.

“We would ask the people to reject it from the onset unless our views are factored in the report. We cannot move the country forward by creating positions for a few leaders when a majority of Kenyans are suffering,” said Rashid Karshey, the Wagberi Ward MCA.

In their statement at the Subukia Shrine in Nakuru on Friday, Catholic bishops opposed the powers given to the president in the BBI report, rejected the expansion of Parliament by 38 members, involvement of political parties in the selection of electoral commissioners, and formation of Kenya Police Council, which they said risks the existence of civilian oversight enshrined in the 2010 Constitution.

“To give the president the power to appoint the prime minister and the two deputies risks consolidating more power around the president thereby creating an imperial presidency.

This amendment could be creating the same problem it set out to solve. It is very important to stick to the principle of separation of powers, for it is the backbone of democracy,” the Catholic Bishops said. They insisted that the document should be reopened for debate.

“This is not about political competition, it is not about for or against, yes or no, and it is not about 2022.

It is about consensus,” the Bishops said in a statement read by Archbishop Philip Anyolo, the chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

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