NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 5 – Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has taken on Deputy President William Ruto on his “undecisive” stand on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), declaring “You’re either in support or against.”
Ruto has sent mixed signals lately, about the constitutional amendment Bill, at some point accusing proponents of being insensitive to the plight of Kenyans by failing to address urgent issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though he said on Wednesday night during a TV interview that he no longer has a problem with contents of the BBI Amendment Bill because issues he raised had been addressed, the Deputy President faulted the process.
“I am talking about the process and not the content in the Bill because most of what we had proposed was amended,” Ruto told Joe Ageyo who interviewed him on Citizen TV a day after addressing a press conference accompanied by more than 100 elected leaders in what is now referred to as the “Karen Declaration.”
In the interview, Ruto said that he is only uncomfortable with the process that will lead to a national referendum possibly mid 2021 and suggested that it should be held aongside the General Election in 2022.
Ruto’s position has sparked mixed reactions from various leaders including KANU Chairman Senator Gideon Moi, COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli and Minority Leader John Mbadi who is the MP for Suba South, who described his declaration as “confusing and lacking direction.”
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga told him off, saying “Time to give views is over and when they were given a chance they did not do so. Time to move forward is now and there is nothing like a non-contested referendum. A referendum in itself entails competition so it’s either you are in support of it or against it,” said Raila, adding, “there is no problem holding a referendum separately from an election.”
He cited countries like the United States of America which has a high COVID-19 infection rate yet was able to hold an election as well as neighbouring Tanzania among others.
“Ruto is either supporting the referendum or opposing it but not in between,” Raila said when he received more than 5.2 million signatures at the BBI Secretariat on Friday.
“Let us respect the 5 million Kenyans who have appended their signatures to this and let us respect millions of Kenyans who are waiting for a referendum to vote for or against it. We must allow Kenyans to have their way or say because no one can speak better for Kenyans than themselves,” Odinga said.
The Secretariat headed by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru said they hope to get 10 million signatures.
“We have collected 5.2 million signatures by this (Friday) morning. These signatures will be processed within 3 days and a form will be presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for validation,” Waweru said.
Waweru and Junet said they are confident that the referendum process will be smooth.
“We don’t expect challenges with the IEBC since they has earlier engaged the commission on the format that they will use to present the signatures for verification,” Waweru said, adding that they expect IEBC to validate them within two weeks.
Nyanza produced the highest number of signatures with 893,782 signatures followed by Eastern Region with, 842,766, Rift Valley came in third with 817,618, Central, 793,135, Coastal region, 745,033, Nairobi, 506,046, Western 487,978 and North Eastern region 161,306 signatures.
Raila was accompanied by National Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and Minority leader John Mbadi among other leaders who all called for unity and urged those opposing the Bill to join the train.
“This is now the time to lead the people of Kenya to the Promised Land. This is the time to lead us to the change that is so desired in this country where we can see each other as brothers and sisters. It is not time for back and forth. Let us all work together,” Mbadi said.
With the collection of the signatures having been completed, the next step is the verification by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Once the verification is over, the IEBC will send the Bill to all the 47 County Assemblies for debate and consideration.
The Bill will require a majority vote of 24 Counties in its favor for it to move to Parliament and once Parliament passes it, the IEBC will then come up with a question where Kenyans will vote in support or against it during a referendum scheduled for April next year.