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Intrigues in BBI signature collection delay

By Eric Wainaina
Friday, November 20th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta with his deputy William Ruto (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (right) during the BBI taskforce report launch at the Bomas of Kenya last week. Photo/PSCU
In summary
    • Announcement of the postponement of the signature launch came after a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at State House on Wednesday afternoon.
    • Secretariat  says it is working on a new date with a comprehensive programme of rollout  activities.

As late as 5pm on Wednesday, select governors, senators, Members of Parliament and high-ranking government officials were still receiving  invitation cards to attend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) signature collection launch, which had been set for Nairobi yesterday.

“Good evening Your Excellency, we have just been asked to pick your invitation cards to attend the BBI signature launch scheduled for tomorrow Thursday, November 19,  at Comesa grounds; Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), starting at 9.30 am. You are kindly requested to be seated at 9.00.  

The Council of Governors  (CoG) protocol team shall have your cards at hand,” read an invite sent to a governor late Wednesday.

The invitations forced several county bosses to cancel a devolution retreat, which was scheduled for Diani, Kwale county yesterday and book flights back to Nairobi on Wednesday night ahead of the launch, highlighting the confusion that surrounded the event. 

Announcement of the postponement of the signature launch came after a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at State House on Wednesday afternoon. 

However, it was not clear whether the State House meeting had anything to do with the postponement.

The DP met the President shortly after he had sent out a tweet indicating that he was no longer keen to lead a No campaign during the proposed BBI referendum.

And while the Handshake team allied to Uhuru and Opposition chief Raila Odinga remained tightlipped over the reasons behind the event’s postponement, Ruto’s surrogates took to social media to celebrate the turn of events, crediting the DP for allegedly intervening during the State House meeting. 

BBI national secretariat, on its part, said the delayed publication of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 by the Government Printer was the reason the event was postponed.

“The Secretariat is working on a new date with a comprehensive programme of rollout activities, which will be communicated in due course,” said a statement signed by BBI Secretariat co-chairpersons Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru.

But multiple sources who spoke to People Daily yesterday revealed the meeting could have been suspended over concerns by a section of the Handshake team members over what they saw as “skewed composition” of the Secretariat, lack of national structures for the signature rollout and the possibility of a backlash for the two BBI principals for convening a huge gathering in the city in the face of Covid-19 protocols.

Another source

“The document was incomplete and there were concerns that some Handshake members such as Kanu and other parties did not have representation in the Secretariat,” said one source.

Another source indicated the Secretariat “found it unreasonable to have the Bill published late into the night and then have Uhuru and Raila unveil it without even perusing it”.

Kisii Woman Rep Janet Ong’era and Dr. Sara Kilemi, wife of former Education Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria, are the joint secretaries to the BBI Secretariat.

Other members  are Oduor Ong’wen, Nancy Gitau, lawyers Tom Macharia, Prof Ben Sihanya, Faith Waigwa, Dr Ken Nyaundi, Prof Lawrence Gumbe, Prof Isaiah Kindiki and Stephen Mwachofi.

Yesterday, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said the postponement could only be temporary. “The idea of a launch of collection signatures is not a legal or constitutional requirement, it is merely a political statement,”Amollo noted.

On his part, Soy MP Caleb Kositany asked Raila to stop “forcing” a contested referendum. “There is an urgent need to give those (Kenyans) an opportunity to review the report.

This process has serious implications on the future of this country,” Kositany, who doubles as the Jubilee Party deputy secretary general, said.

Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi waded into the debate, asking Kenyans to close ranks and build consensus to minimise high-octane political activities in the wake of Covid 19.  

Yesterday, the newly formed Secretariat started assembling teams to spearhead referendum campaigns across the country by identifying two coordinators in each county to market the document.

Their respective governors and county commissioners yesterday notified some of those proposed for the positions. Former Mathira MP Peter Weru, who has been picked to lead the BBI campaign in central Kenya alongside Senate Majority leader Irungu Kang’ata and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, told People Daily they would be involved in the entire exercise, from sensitisation, collection of signatures all the way to the referendum voting.

“It is work in progress and we have started from the top going downwards. It was only at this function, had it taken place, that the team would have been unveiled,” the former lawmaker said.

BBI national steering committee has split the country into 13 regions, among them Nairobi, Central, Coast, Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya North.

Others are the South Rift, North Eastern, Maasai region covering Narok and Kajiado counties, Lower Eastern, upper Eastern covering Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu counties, Nyanza, Western and Migori.

Bob Madanje, the head of protocol at the Kisumu county government, who is coordinating the BBI activities in the Nyanza region alongside ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, said they were in the process of assembling a similar team for the region.

According to Madanje, the structure that was agreed upon by the national steering committee will see them identify two coordinators in each county, two in each of the sub-counties and one in each ward as well as in the villages in the 11 counties that form Nyanza and Western regions.

Team will help in mobilising support for the initiative, training of trainers and the collection of data to enable them to identify the polling stations and the number of registered voters in the regions.

“We (Nyanza) are yet to identify the coordinators but we have proposals. We want to come up with a structure that goes up to the village level, which will be the standard structure all over the country,” Madanje told People Daily.

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