BBI vote: Ruto’s grip on the county assemblies shaken

Eleven county assemblies have approved the bill with only 13 remaining to hit the magic 24 threshold

In Summary
  • Ruto comes down tumbling as his backyard assemblies slips to BBI
  • Uhuru delivers first county from his backyard in support of BBI
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House for the Handshake on March 9, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House for the Handshake on March 9, 2018.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga have shaken DP William Ruto's hitherto perceived stranglehold on county assemblies as they sprint towards the magic 24 required to pass the BBI Bill.

Sending the clearest signal that the tables had been turned on Ruto, Uhuru's Central Kenya backyard—where BBI was perceived to be unpopular—delivered its first county to the vote.

The Yes vote by Ndiritu Muriithi's Laikipia County Assembly hinted at a looming mad rush by counties' in Uhuru's turf to pass the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

In another staggering blow to Ruto's slippery grip in counties, the DP lost in the capital city assembly of Nairobi regarded as the hotbed of national politics.

Members of the County Assembly including those allied to the DP flashed the Yes card in an afternoon sitting as Kisii and Vihiga also gave the bill a nod to move to the next stage.

Yesterday's votes pushed the number of counties that have approved BBI to 11 handing the law change proponents a major boost with only 13 more remaining to seal the magic 24 assemblies nod.

The Constitution requires that a constitutional amendment through the popular initiative must be approved by at least 24 county assemblies before the bill is taken to a referendum irrespective of the outcome at the Senate and the National Assembly.

On Thursday, BBI secretariat co-chair Dennis Waweru exuded confidence that at least 30 counties would have approved the bill by end of next week so that the process moves to Parliament.

“Once we clock the 24 counties we shall move to Parliament without further delay without necessarily waiting for all the 47 Assemblies to consider the bill,” the ex-Dagorrreti South MP said.

Waweru said the secretariat is clear that they are within their own timelines to be able to deliver a referendum by June this year.

Ruto's push for the anti-BBI narrative is seen to have backfired after West Pokot county in his own Rift Valley backyard voted for the bill in a sitting witnessed by Governor John Lonyangapuo.

Trans Nzoia county which is within his turf approved the bill as well raising concerns on the DP's strategy to block the referendum at the county assemblies.

Other counties that have also approved the BBI Bill include Raila's home turf counties of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya, Busia and Kajiado.

Two more county assemblies, Nyamira and Marsabit, started public participation hearings this week, ahead of debate next week.

Some assemblies, especially those in Ruto’s stronghold have been dragging their feet in submitting the bill for debate with Baringo having been the only one that rejected it.

Eyes are on Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Bomet and Kericho, which have argued that they have 90 days to consider the bill once it is tabled.

However, most of the counties in Uhuru's turf will be approving the bill by next week in what would ramp up the process to the referendum.

The President and his soulmate political brother Raila have already ganged up and thwarted Ruto's push for a multiple-choice referendum by sealing a deal on a Yes and No vote.

Despite protests from Ruto's allied MPs, National Assembly is on course to approve a referendum law that provides for a closed question.


-Edited by Sarah Kanyara