KAKAMEGA, Kenya Oct 25 – Deputy President William Ruto has urged Kenyans to carefully read the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals before deciding whether to back it or not.
He said leaders should be cautious while discussing the BBI report to avoid causing divisions among Kenyans.
Speaking at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church in Matungu constituency, Kakamega County on Sunday, the Deputy President said change of Constitution should involve all Kenyans and not just a few.
He said Kenyans should be allowed to go through the documents and make their own decisions without being coerced.
The Deputy President added that it was wrong for some leaders to threaten Kenyans that the BBI report would be passed whether they liked it or not.
“Kenyans are ready to talk about BBI. But leaders should stop using threats and insults like telling the people that no one can stop reggae whether they like it or not,” said Dr Ruto, in an apparent reference of remarks by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who declared, “nobody can stop reggae”.
Ruto said there was need for a honest debate about BBI which should involve all Kenyans.
“As we engage the debate on BBI, we must be clear not to only focus on issues affecting leaders but address the concerns of ordinary people. Millions of Kenyans should be given priority than the power we want to share,” Ruto said.
The Deputy President, who had initially made it clear he will oppose the document, has lately sent mixed signals, with his close allies like Soy Member of Parliament Caleb Kositany saying they have key conditions that must be made before they can back the proposals.
It includes having roles of the Deputy President clearly defined for posterity eventhough they will not benefit Ruto because he is eyeing the presidency.
Kositany, seen as Ruto’s defacto political Spokesman was on Sunday quoted on the Sunday Standard as saying that the BBI is all about creating an imperial president, a Prime Minister and two deputies.
The Deputy President said Kenyans have every right to be heard on matters pertaining to BBI, noting that the issue would affect their lives in future and should, therefore, be allowed to read and make informed decisions.
“Kenyans will reject the BBI report if its focus is about creation of leadership positions at the expense of addressing the needs of majority of them including those in boda boda business, wheelbarrows, mama mboga and barbers among others,” he said.
Present were MPs Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Charles Gimose (Hamisi), Malulu Injendi (Malava), Justus Murunga (Matungu), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Caleb Kositany (Soy), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu).
Others were former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, former Senators Bonny Khalwale and Johnstone Muthama.
And while addressing wananchi at Mumias and Shianda grounds respectively, Dr Ruto said it was time the country implemented the Big Four Agenda- manufacturing, housing, food security and healthcare, which can transform the lives of millions of Kenyans other than focusing on change of Constitution to create jobs for few people.
“As much as we look for the inclusivity of leaders, we should also look for the inclusivity of millions of people locked out because of poverty and unemployment,” said the Deputy President.
At the same time, the Deputy President said no one should curtail the freedom of worship in the country.
He said Kenya is a God-fearing nation, noting that those interfering with the freedom of worship were ill advised.
“Some public servants should stop interfering with church activities. Going to Church in this country is an individual’s right that should not be compromised,” said Ruto.
The MPs expressed their reservations at the BBI report, saying there is nothing to smile about especially on matters pertaining to ordinary Kenyans.
They said issues affecting sugarcane, maize and coffee farmers have not been captured in the BBI report but instead more focus was on creation of positions to benefit few leaders.
“The BBI report has not talked anything about how to improve the lives of sugarcane, maize or coffee farmers in this country. This means the report has not addressed the concerns of the ordinary people,” said Washiali.
He said the move to change the Constitution was suspect, wondering why President Uhuru Kenyatta could not embark on the process when he took over power in 2013.
“If President Kenyatta believed that changing the Constitution can bring together all Kenyans, he should have started the process in 2013 but not now when he only has less than two years in office,” Washiali.
Ichungwa said the funds that have been set aside for change of the constitution should be used to improve the country’s economy that has deteriorated because of COVID-19.
“But this BBI process should be all-inclusive of all Kenyans but not just a few. This country belongs to all of us and each opinion matters,” said Ichungwa.
“There should be proper national conversation and total inclusion of all Kenyans if the process has to be successful,” said Mr Kositany.
Mr Khalwale and Mr Muthama said laws were not the problem facing the country but failure to implement the Constitution.
“They want to create positions for five big tribes in this BBI. What happens to the rest of the communities? We must reject it in totality,” said Mr Muthama.