- There is unease over the abrupt postponement of the BBI signatures launch.
- The suspension came hours after Raila held a meeting with Nyanza governors and Interior CS Fred Matiang'i to strategise on the drive.
Anxiety has marred former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's camp over the abrupt postponement of the BBI signatures launch “without broader consultations".
Some of Raila's lieutenants are apprehensive that the 'unilateral' decision to cancel the collection of at least one million signatures casts a dark shadow on the future of the handshake.
The Star has established that the decision to call off last Thursday's event — which was to be presided over by Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta — has unnerved the ODM leader's key allies and thrown his team into confusion.
This even as confidants of Deputy President William Ruto appeared excited that the DP's meeting with Uhuru at State House, Nairobi, late Wednesday evening resulted in the postponement to build consensus.
On Friday, ODM insiders told the Star that there are serious reservations within the ex-PM's camp about the aborted plans to launch the signature collection drive.
Raila had shut the door on any further amendments and dared those dissatisfied to lead a No campaign. Hence, the President's decision to postpone the exercise is seen by some as a silent rebuke.
It has also sent a message that Uhuru still listens to Ruto, making it risky to bank on his political backing in the future.
The signatures of validly registered voters are a key requirements by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for proponents of a constitutional amendment push through a referendum.
“The cancellation of the exercise is not a small matter and smacks of mischief. In fact, it casts a dark shadow on the future of the handshake,” said a high-ranking member of the ODM party who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Political risk analyst Dismas Mokua said the postponement lifted the lid on the silent political wars roiling the Uhuru and Raila faction.
“The move was ill-advised and could offer their rivals some ammunition to attack the process, which, for a long time, they have claimed is not all-inclusive,” Mokua said, adding that postponing a presidential function means there were political undercurrents.
However, ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is also the National Assembly Minority leader, dismissed the claims, saying the postponement was because the two leaders needed to unveil the BBI Constitution (amendment) Bill, 2020, alongside the signature drive.
“The event was first put off because the prime minister and the President wanted the bill published and gazetted,” Mbadi said, noting that there was general consensus that signatures launched without a bill would be susceptible to attacks.
“When you launch signatures without the bill, you are launching based on what? The people throwing stones are the very ones who would criticise us if we collected the signatures without a published bill,” he added.
The Suba North MP denied any rift between the President and Raila over the BBI process, terming the claims “figments of imaginations by the Tangatanga group”.
“What they (Tangatanga) want to portray is that there is misunderstanding between Uhuru and Raila, but I don't think they will succeed because there is none,” Mbadi reiterated.
There were reports that Raila wanted to launch the signatures on Thursday before he flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo later that day.
“The president had requested Raila that it be postponed but Raila was of the Thursday idea because he was leaving the country but there was consensus that would be done when Raila returns, probably next week,” Mbadi said.
But another ODM member who sought anonymity separately confirmed there is a lot of unease in the party.
“We don't want to pretend that all is well,” he said.
It has emerged that Raila could have retreated for a meeting with some of his trusted allies Thursday afternoon as tension swirled within the party after the cancellation of the event.
He then flew to the DRC on Thursday evening as teams working on the final BBI bill remained holed up in a house in Runda in what was said to be a marathon of redrafting the constitutional amendment bill.
Raila is said to have received a call from State House late on Wednesday evening alerting him of the plans to cancel the event amid concerns there was no room for consultations or his side to give views.
“The event was called off from State House and the prime minister was courteously informed of the development before the BBI co-chairs were instructed to draft a formal statement to that effect,” another ODM member said.
There are concerns within the Raila camp after the President chose to cancel the drive moments after meeting with Ruto at State House.
But nominated MP Maina Kamanda on Friday insisted that Ruto's men were creating the narrative that the signature launch was postponed to build consensus in order to save face.
“They want to come back and support the BBI but are ashamed and now want to look for avenues to claim that their issues have been accommodated and therefore they have no issues at all,” the ex-Starehe MP said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen welcomed the move, saying it would make room for consensus.
The Ruto camp has opposed the creation of a police council chaired by the Interior Cabinet secretary, the establishment of the office of the Judiciary Ombudsman and the involvement of political parties in picking IEBC commissioners.
“This is the President I knew. Let’s now have meaningful engagement for a win-win result. We only have one Kenya; let’s listen to all voices,” Murkomen said.
His remarks were echoed by Jubilee deputy secretary general Caleb Kositany, who said the postponement would allow the inclusion of other views in the final BBI bill.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta has taken full charge of the BBI process, there is power in prayer. We expect to see Uhuru, Ruto and Raila on the consensus table. Reggae stops for now,” the Soy MP said.
But Kuria West MP Mathias Robi said the postponement was a clear sign that the “BBI reggae can be stopped as it will not help the common mwananchi.”
“When we established the Jubilee government, we had a manifesto, which the BBI was not part of. It (the BBI) came after the President was cheated by opposition leader Raila Odinga,” he said.