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President, Raila launch collection of referendum signatures

By Eric Wainaina
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga display the BBI report. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) yesterday approved a format to be applied in collection of signatures for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) ahead of its rollout in Nairobi today.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga are set to launch the BBI Bill, formally setting in motion their push for constitutional reforms.

Yesterday, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati wrote to BBI national secretariat chairpersons Dennis Waweru and Junet Mohammed informing them their format had been approved.

“The commission takes note of your request for guidance as well as approval of your proposed format and provides you the approved format/template that should be used for collection of signatures.

To enable the voter verification process and to ensure completeness of the supporters’ records, all fields in the said approved format/template should be fully filled as provided,” Chebukati said.

Voters will fill in their names, Identification Card numbers, county, constituency, county assembly ward, polling station, mobile phone number and email address.

And if the hardline positions are anything to go by, today’s launch is set to open the stage for a contest between forces allied to Uhuru and Raila against those associated with Deputy President William Ruto and a section of clerics.

Ruto’s allies yesterday said they intend to use all available avenues to ask Kenyans to reject the document which has proposed radical constitutional changes.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said though Ruto’s Tanga Tanga team will not assemble a secretariat to run a “No” campaign, they will use all other available platforms to ask Kenyans to reject the BBI, and ensure they “go down in history as people who spoke against bad proposals”.

“We will continue to make our position known in funerals, press conferences and churches to rally Kenyans not to support the BBI so that even after the document has passed, Kenyans will know that we were duped that this document would improve our lives and therefore say so and so (those opposed) were right,” Barasa said.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, another Ruto ally, said the initiative will fail “because Kenyans will side with them as the voice of reason”.

“We didn’t know that this BBI was only meant for two people, but apparently, this document was intended for only two people, namely President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. 

If this document was meant to involve the 47.5 million Kenyans then every voice and every idea matters,” the senator said.

Bishop Mark Kariuki of Deliverance Church said church leaders will oppose the document over claims their views were not incorporated, and was a clear indication that there was some mischief.

“I don’t think he (Raila) is interested in BBI, I think he has his own interests. That is why he does not want to think about anything else but as you know, as a church it’s not just the votes that we have, we also have prayers and our prayers work.

When you are pushed to the corner, you call upon the name of the Lord. And so as a church we will call upon the Lord and our God will hear us and he will deliver us,” he told People Daily.

But Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said BBI backers were unmoved by the dissenting voices, adding that they intend to undertake a vigorous campaign to market the initiative while those opposed to the project will get an opportunity to vote against it during the referendum.  

“Those who think the proposed amendments are good for Kenya - led by the President - will explain why.

Those who think they are not - including the DP and his allies - will also explain why.

Everyone will listen to both sides of the argument, as well as read the proposed bill,” Wambugu said.

The MP added: “Then at the referendum those who agree will vote ‘YES’ and those who disagree will vote ‘NO’.

The side with more votes will carry the day. Kenya will have won whichever side carries the day, because we are a democracy and that is what democracy looks like.”

Ruto, his allies and some church leaders have been demanding that Uhuru and Raila open the document for dialogue so that contentious issues can be discussed.

But on Wednesday, Raila told off those opposed to the BBI telling them to meet him during the referendum, saying: “If we allow this thing to continue until next year, we will not have consensus and that’s why we are a democracy.

I think enough is enough and we are good to go. You can’t just agree with everybody.”

Separately, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia has directed chiefs in the region to spearhead the BBI project ahead of the referendum.

Speaking during a National Government Administrative Officers meeting on Lamu Island, he told chiefs as well as other public servants to be wary of fake BBI documents that could be circulating.

“With the BBI document out already, there is a need to sensitise the public over the gains that will be made once the national government implements the amendments,” Macharia said.

He further stated that chiefs will be at the forefront of ensuring civic education on the BBI noting that booklets will soon be made available to the public.

In fact, it will be a big surprise to them,” Ruto said. 

Speaking on Monday, Kinoti, who addressed some of the victims in Nairobi, warned that detectives were determined to ensure there will not be a repeat of violence.

“I would urge you all not to worry. It happened but I can assure you it will not happen again. The core mandate of the police is to prevent, deter and disrupt. We will not just speak but will act before damage is caused,” he said

One of the victims from Chepakundi in Olenguruone, Nakuru County, told People Daily that his expectant wife died due to shock after learning that their home had been attacked.

He recounted how, while taking his wife to hospital in Nakuru, he was turned back at Olenguruone and told that violence had erupted at home.

“She got worried of the young children we had left back at home. She just collapsed and died in my arms,” the man said.

Only identified as DK, he said that he had never recorded a statement with the police.

“I am glad that finally I have been given an opportunity to narrate what I went through and how I lost my five acres of land. I have not healed but at least I am happy,” he said.

Yesterday, Ruto’s political allies also waded into the matter, claiming that the revival of post-election cases was a desperate attempt to derail their man’s presidential ambitions.

 Speaking at Parliament buildings, about 40 MPs claimed the State was employing its “last card” in its anti-Ruto plot.

They included Senators Susan Kihika and Kipchumba Murkomen and MPs Kimani Ichung’wa, Alice Wahome, Mohammed Ali, David Sankok and Joseph Limo.

They all accused Kinoti of being used by individuals whose aim was to settle political scores and demanded that President Uhuru Kenyatta sacks him.

The MPs said the DCI boss’s action could incite violence between communities living in the Rift Valley.

“Kinoti and his masters are back in town once more. This time round with the announcement of the opening of investigations into the post-election violence which took place between late 2007 and early 2008.

In doing so, they conveniently and selectively focused their attention on some incidents, areas and victims,” said Kihika, who read the statement on behalf of the MPs.

“Yesterday’s public statement by Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti is yet another instalment of the zealous antics staged purely for cheap publicity to anchor partisan political narratives and fuel divisive agendas,” added the Nakuru Senator.

The MPs claimed Kinoti was deployed by his masters to announce the start of investigations and the assembling of evidence as the basis for prosecuting leaders for various trumped-up charges.

They alleged Kinoti’s statement amounted to incitement and provocation of otherwise peaceful citizens in order to force them to vote for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) by instilling fear in them.

“In this spirit of revisiting, we also ask the President to address the nation on the fate of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Report as well as the recommendations of all past commissions of inquiry.

This will forestall political hirelings from weaponising such reports in future for divisive political agendas, the way DCI Kinoti is now abusing victims of PEVfor political sport.” 

Murkomenon claimed re-opening the cases was aimed at scuttling Ruto’s political ambitions.

While telling Kinoti to apologise over his remarks, Murkomen claimed the re-opening of the cases is also an affront to Uhuru who together with Ruto had assured the ICC that they had started reconciliation efforts to bring warring communities together.

“Let the DCI go back and call a press conference and apologise to Kenyans for that or better yet let the President relieve him off his duties so that we can get a competent person to run that office,” he said.

In Nakuru, local leaders took a swipe at Kinoti for reviving the cases.

Led by Njoro MP Charity Kathambi, the legislators asked Kinoti to rethink his move as it might rekindle the suffering that was witnessed in 2008.

“We have embraced peace and we will not allow anything that will rekindle the memories of what we went through,” said Kathambi.

She accused Kinoti of selective investigations questioning why he was not interested in victims of the violence witnessed in Kisumu, Naivasha and other parts of the country.

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