Prepare for BBI referendum — Raila

Raila dismisses parliamentary initiative saying MPs will kill BBI

In Summary

• Ruto allies have advocated for a parliamentary route where report would be passed in Parliament. 

• But ODM wants citizens to vote in a referendum saying initiative would be shot down in the 'divided House'. 

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga last year
'PEOPLE-OWNED DOCUMENT': Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga last year
Image: FILE

ODM has given the clearest indication that the country could soon be headed for a referendum to adopt the Building Bridges Initiative proposals.

Party leader Raila Odinga dismissed calls to take the parliamentary route in implementing the proposals, saying the people will vote in a referendum.

On Tuesday during the launch of the report at Bomas, Deputy President William Ruto showed that he was leaning towards a parliamentary initiative when he called on MPs to play their part when the document finally lands in their hands.


According to the DP, the changes can be implemented in line with the Constitution without necessarily calling for a referendum.

It is the referendum issue that is posing fresh battle lines between Ruto and Raila and which put to test the commitment by leaders to rally behind the report launched at Bomas of Kenya. 

Ruto’s allies–National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale and his Senate Counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen–have both advocated for the parliamentary route.

On Thursday, Raila dismissed the push for a parliamentary initiative saying Kenyans will vote for the improved document in a referendum.

“The process must be people-owned; it must not be taken to Parliament,” he said.

A number of party officials backed Raila's remarks and voiced fears of the document being frustrated in Parliament by lawmakers oscillating around the Deputy President.

ODM chairman John Mbadi termed the current Parliament as "too divided to be trusted with an important national task as driving constitutional reforms.


“I hear people talking about parliamentary initiative. I want to state here categorically you can't initiate a constitutional reform through Parliament. How do you expect the initiative to pass in that kind of a divided House?” Mbadi asked.

“I have been in Parliament long enough. Parliament can't drive reforms. I have been an MP and know what happens.” 

The Suba North lawmaker added that the 2008 National Accord only sailed through because of the political goodwill and crisis the country was in at that time.

Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati was blunter in confirming ODM’s fear of taking the document to MPs.

“Parliament is not going to discuss the BBI report. Ruto will buy all the members. The only court where we will get justice is the court of common wananchi,” Arati said.

Raila’s deputies governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa) also warned against taking the parliamentary route.

“We are committed to the BBI report. I hope the report will go to a popular vote. If this document is subjected to a Parliamentary initiative it will go nowhere,” Oparanya said.

Joho said, “Tell your colleagues (MPs) that this document does not belong to them. How will governors like myself give their views? Let's face off on the ground.”

The two governors at the same time rejected the Executive model proposed by the BBI team, demanding instead a parliamentary system with an executive model.

“We have a chance of making amendments. I want a powerful Prime Minister,” Oparanya said.

“Whatever was proposed is not cast on stone, it is the beginning of a conversation that all of us must have. If you want powerful Prime Minister or two-tier system then this is your opportunity,” Joho added.

The leaders spoke during the launch of Chungwa House – the new ODM headquarters.

In Parliament, the opposition party got a major boost on its call for a referendum after a number of MPs backed a proposal that Kenyans decide the report and its recommendations at the ballot. 

The lawmakers–drawn from ODM, Wiper, Kanu, ANC, and Jubilee as well as independents–unanimously bid for a popular initiative to implement BBI.

Homa Bay Woman MP Gladys Wanga, who read the statement on behalf of the MPs, said since the document is homegrown, it should be left to Kenyans to decide.

“We urge all Kenyans to own this report. We must let the people decide. BBI is the people's report. Not an elitist or politicians’ report.”

She was joined by Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany), Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri), Dan Maanzo (Makueni), Godfrey Osotsi (ANC Nominated), Fatuma Gedi (Wajir), Samuel Arama (Nakuru West), Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East) and Caleb Amisi (Saboti) among others. 

They asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a team–preferably the BBI task force–to incorporate the ideas that the people will give during the deliberations.

“Let the BBI team continue with the task and come up with a bill. To tell us that Parliament can discuss this document is a sure way of denying Kenyans the chance to decide their future,” Kuttuny said. 

Wambugu asked his colleagues in Parliament as well as politicians not to be carried away to take over the BBI report.

“Let Kenyans be vigilant so that no one hijacks this report. I have seen there is a big temptation for us in Parliament to take the report and debate it in the House. There is no way we can do so since this process belongs to Kenyans,” the Nyeri Town MP said. 

The MPs took a swipe at Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen over his protests about the BBI launch programme saying that was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s function.

“Their problem was that the organizers chose Suna East MP Junet Mohammed as MC. Why would they get angry when the President himself saw it fit for ODM members to take roles in the event?” Gedi asked.

“Those calling for the report to be debated in Parliament are only employing diversionary tactics. We hear some are calling themselves Prime Minister which we don’t have,” Osotsi said. 

However, Lamu’s Ruweida Obbo who had joined the team for the presser walked out protesting the mention of the ‘one man! one vote’ clause.

“I couldn’t betray my people who will suffer more marginalisation when we take the route of one man one vote. I support the other issues except this,” the MP said.

Edited by R.Wamochie