Biwott's joins Kanu in backing BBI and constitutional amendments

North Rift politicians split on the Building Bridges Initiative and constitutional changes

In Summary

• NVP Party founded by ex-Minister Nochols Biwott joins Kanu in backing BBI and handshake

• DP Ruto allies claim BBI was part of a scheme to undermine him ahead of 2022

ODM leader Raila Odinga is welcomed to Elgeyo Marakwet by Governor Alex Tolgos on June 30
ODM leader Raila Odinga is welcomed to Elgeyo Marakwet by Governor Alex Tolgos on June 30

Politicians from the North Rift are split on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the debate on constitutional amendments.

DP William Ruto’s allies insist the proposal to change the Constitution is part of a 2022 election scheme, but others say it is a move in the right direction.

Yesterday, the National Vision Party, an outfit founded by the late Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott, joined Kanu in supporting the BBI, arguing that it is a noble cause that will go a long way in uniting Kenyans and enabling lasting stability. A similar stance has been taken by elders. 

“We fully support the BBI, the handshake and the fight against corruption by President [Uhuru] Kenyatta because that will ensure a stable Kenya for our future generations,” NVP chairman Mwarere wa Mwachai said.

Mwachai and party director for special programmes and security Kiplagat Tallam said the handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga has brought peace in the country and must be supported by all Kenyans.

“If Biwott were alive, he would have supported any efforts like the handshake aimed at uniting the country. That’s why the NVP he founded fully stands with President Kenyatta,” Tallam said.

Their position has struck a note of dissonance in the referendum debate, especially given that the region is considered the backbone of Ruto’s political life.

The DP’s allies claim the constitutional changes are meant to benefit some individuals to the suffering of other Kenyans, specifically having in mind the DP, whose presidential ambition is seemingly on the line.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Woman Representative Gladys Shollei and MP William Cheptumo said the BBI is a ploy to scuttle Ruto’s presidential bid ahead of the 2022 election.

Mandago claimed the BBI taskforce had not collected views from all Kenyans, despite bringing to an end its countrywide hearings.

He said governors do not support the Thirdway Alliance-led Punguza Mizigo initiative and the BBI. The BBI team is summing up its work and has yet to make its proposals public.

“As governors, we will push our own initiative to ensure we strengthen devolution,” Mandago said.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany says constitutional changes targeting an individual would be counterproductive for wananchi. He said all Kenyans must be given a chance to air their views on changes that should be made to the supreme law.

“What we want are changes for the benefit of the country and not aimed at targeting one person just because of the 2022 election,” Kositany said.

However, Kanu officials, led by Rift Valley representative Paul Kibet, said in Eldoret that they are fully behind the BBI and the handshake.

“Those opposing the BBI and the handshake are self-seekers who have no interest in the future of the country,” Kibet said.

Tallam said they will support amendments, including a proposal to have governors appointed by the Public Service Commission and not elected directly.

Mwachai cautioned, however, that any amendments to the Constitution should not undermine gender balance in politics and leadership.

Moiben MP Sila Tiren and Elgeyo Marakwet governor Alex Tolgos also support the BBI and the handshake, as well as the war on corruption.

“Some people used to claim that my network was only limited to Elgeyo Marakwet, but nowadays I deal with former Prime Minister Odinga and the President. Is that not a national netwok?” Tolgos said at a meeting in Elgeyo Marakwet.

Raila has visited the Rift Valley region twice in the recent past. He said the BBI team will, in its report, recommend the best way forward for the country.

(Edited by F'Orieny)