EXPLAINER

EXPLAINER: Why Kenya is unlikely to go a referendum this year

The Constitution (Article 255) lists 10 provisions that cannot be changed without a referendum

In Summary

• Raila’s close ally Siaya Senator James Orengo has said the preparations for a referendum should be completed by July.

• But it doubtful the referendum will take place this year. First, media reports indicate no money has been allocated for that purpose in the next financial year.

DP William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI task force chairman Yusuf Haji at Bomas of Kenya, launching BBI report
UNVEILED: DP William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI task force chairman Yusuf Haji at Bomas of Kenya, launching BBI report
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

The proponents of the BBI say a referendum is inevitable to implement proposed changes in the structure of government.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga, who started the BBI together with President Uhuru Kenyatta, has said rallies to drum up support for the initiative will end this month.

The BBI task force will then embark on a nationwide campaign to collect a million signatures in support of the process.

A draft bill will be prepared and presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for validation in preparation for a referendum.

Raila’s close ally Siaya Senator James Orengo has said the preparations for a referendum should be completed by July.

But it doubtful the referendum will take place this year. First, media reports indicate no money has been allocated for that purpose in the next financial year.

Second, the campaign to collect a million signatures will take time. Third, the IEBC will need a lot of time to verify the signatures once they have been presented.

In the failed Punguza Mzigo Initiative last year, Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance party presented the signatures to the IEBC in February. A total of 1.2 million signatures were fully verified in July, five months later.

Going by the massive campaigns and full involvement of the state and the country’s political bigwigs in the BBI process, the number of signatures in support is likely to be far higher than those of PMI. That means the IEBC will require more time to verify them.

And fourth, the IEBC, which has its own financial and political problems, may be reluctant to fast track the referendum process as the agency is targeted for disbandment during implementation of the BBI.

After verification of signatures, the IEBC will submit the BBI draft bill to the 47 county assemblies for consideration within three months. The majority of assemblies must pass the bill for it to move to the next stage.

If passed, the bill goes to Parliament without delay. If Parliament passes the bill, it shall be presented to the President for assent. But if either House rejects it, the bill shall be subjected to a referendum.

The Constitution (Article 255) lists 10 provisions that cannot be changed without a referendum, including supremacy of the Constitution, territory of Kenya, supremacy of the people, the Bill of Rights, term of office of the President and the structure of devolved government.

The changes proposed by the BBI will require a referendum. But that is likely to happen more than a year from now.