NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday defended government spending on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitution review quest saying Sh2 billion was being embezzled by public officials on a daily basis anyway.
Kenyatta made the revelations during a recorded radio interview broadcast on Inooro FM where he spoke in his native Kikuyu language.
“Is it the first time Kenya will have an election?” the President posed, saying the gains that will come with the initiative which seeks to expand the national executive, will outweigh the cost.
“The billions they steal in some of the projects that I will not mention are more than that (what will be spent on BBI),” the President, without naming said projects said.
“The amount they steal every day is more than Sh2 billion.”
An anticipated BBI referendum in June, a joint initiative of the Head of State and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has been projected to cost Sh14 billion.
The debate on how much money government was spending on the initiative has attracted wide criticism with former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot faulting Treasury after it emerged that the BBI taskforce had absorbed Sh10 billion as of April 2020.
The President who is facing growing opposition in his backyard, also took time to explain what his current working relationship with the former Prime Minister entailed.
While his critics have dismissed BBI as a self-centered initiative, the President said he only wants to “secure a peaceful future for Kenyans.”
“We forget easily…but we can all recall the events of 2017 and later 2018 and the violence that ensued,” he said.
“I decided to reach out to those whom were competing with because a country is bigger than an individual and I even notified those we were elected with,” the President, who avoided mentioning his Deputy’s name during the entire interview, said.
The President said he is clear of “where we are and where we are going.”
The handshake, as his 2018 truce with Odinga is famously known, seeks to unite the country more, ensure there is no bloodshed every five years after election and more resources for the county governments, the President said.
“We(Odinga and I) also spoke on how we can empower the youth so that we can address the problem of unemployment,” he said.
He castigated the critics of BBI, saying they had reduced the initiative to personal war.
“The biggest mistake is about those doing rounds saying it is about an individual,” President Kenyatta said.
“I never said it is about 2022,” he asserted, adding that “the same God who helped me to get here, will also show us the path we shall take.”
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission IEBC is currently verifying signatures of voters in support of the referendum Bill.
The Commission needs to verify the signatures of at least a million voters for the Bill to proceed to County Assemblies for validation, thereafter to Parliament before it is subjected to a national referendum.