Scramble for No vote picks up after Ruto change of tune

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020 09:00 | By
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa during a past press briefing in Nairobi. PHOTO/Bernard Malonza

Deputy President William Ruto’s about-turn to support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has opened a scramble, among various forces keen to spearhead the No campaign against the document.

Ruto was widely expected to marshal opposition against the constitutional amendment project which he has been disparaging for the past two years with his troops in toe.

His imminent withdrawal from the No campaign has effectively opened room for other forces who have activated their networks against a planned referendum, triggering debate on whether they had the stamina and resources to push their agenda.

Those who have declared they will rally against the BBI bill whose signature collection is set to close on Thursday include a section of politicians allied to the DP, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and civil society activists led by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and economist David Ndii, under the Linda Katiba umbrella.

Strong reservations

The scramble for the No vote rages even as Ruto faces an uphill task persuading his troops to drop their hardline stance against BBI, with some of them yesterday insisting nothing would persuade them from their strong opposition for the document. 

Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and combative Kandara lawmaker Alice Wahome, have voiced strong reservations against the document, even after the DPs apparent change of heart.

Kibwana, Kindiki, Karua and Barasa have offered to lead the No campaign even as the government and an array of political leaders steamroll collection of signatures to ensure the document sails through.

The BBI secretariat announced yesterday that 1.5 million Kenyans had endorsed the document by Sunday, surpassing the 1 million threshold set by the Constitution.

“I will not drop my opposition. I take instructions from the people of Kimilili. I will not be intimidated.

They (Jubilee) have said they will discipline us. They can go ahead.The DP will allow me to take a position on this one but my support for him is unwavering,” Barasa told the People Daily yesterday.

According to Barasa,  the BBI had been packaged as a project of  President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in a manner, he claimed,  could not allow Kenyans to make independent choices.

On her part, Karua urged Kenyans to reject the initiative:  “We are calling on Kenyans to resist this illegitimate, illegal and ill-timed constitutional amendment initiative.” 

And Prof Kibwana, a veteran of the constitutional reform journey who has declared intentions to vie for the presidency, sought the support of Kenyans to spearhead the No campaign.  The two-term governor has lately been gravitating towards Ruto’s corner.

“BBI No. Constitution 2010, Yes. We can review our Constitution after the next election devoid of political manipulation.

Let Cabinet adjust revenues to counties to 35 per cent now,” said Kibwana.

Ndii said the Linda Katiba movement would seek legal redress, political engagement and civic education to ensure the amendment does not carry the day.

“Our Constitution is fine, the two people who are trying to overthrow the current Constitution are the sons of those who overthrew the independence Constitution.

We cannot allow this to happen,” said Ndii, a former Raila supporter who is now a member of the Ruto think-tank.

Ruto is tomorrow expected to meet his brigade at his Karen residence in Nairobi to explain reasons behind his apparent abrupt change of heart, which has thrust some of them into an awkward position.

An MP from the Rift Valley, who is allied to the DP, said the about-turn had pushed them to a situation where they will have to swallow a bitter pill and return to their supporters to campaign for a document they had been disparaging.

“We have spent the last two years asking people to vote against this project. We are now being asked to support it.

Will the people take us seriously? We have been humiliated by the State because of our position.

If we support it, will the people trust us again?” said the MP who requested anonymity.

He added: “This thing is not a one-man show, we are a battalion. We can’t surrender just like that.” 


Ruto’s allies who coalesce around the Tanga Tanga brigade described the DP’s move to abandon his vicious campaign against the project by Uhuru and Raila, as personal, insisting they will still oppose the Bill “because it has nothing good for Kenyans”.

Yesterday, Ruto sustained his pressure for consensus to ensure the referendum Bill unveiled last week is not contested.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing. Tremendous progress achieved. Consensus on remaining issues and process, so as to have non-divisive vote best option,” the DP tweeted.

Senior members of the BBI secretariat have cast doubt on Ruto’s sincerity about the project, saying the man cannot be trusted.

It has been argued that the BBI project had provided the Tanga Tanga group, a perfect platform to catapult their ambitions to the national stage, after some of them were removed from key parliamentary leadership positions for opposing it.

A No campaign would give them another platform to test their stamina ahead of the 2022 polls, but without Ruto’s backing they are likely to struggle in terms of resources. 

Wahome, who has been  fiercely attacking the project, said while she was still studying the report, a “large part of the document has nothing to do with mwananchi”.

“The DP is able to speak for himself and we should not make conclusions on the position he has taken.

I believe on Wednesday, he will explain himself. Maybe after that, that is the only time I will be able to tell whether I agree with him or not, because I don’t know what he will say… but my position is that (in that Bill) there is nothing for this country to gain,” she said.

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