UNPOPULAR INITIATIVE

Numbers show BBI has low support in counties

In 18 counties there is a massive variance between BBI’s self-set targets (in press statements) and the actual signatures achieved as recorded in IEBC’s final report.

In Summary

• Analysis finds the BBI Secretariat surpassed the one million signature threshold by only 30,000 registered voters across all the 47 counties.

• The BBI Secretariat repeatedly over-exaggerated support for its initiative. 

A delegate reads the BBI report during its launch at Bomas of Kenya on October 26, 2020.
BBI REPORT: A delegate reads the BBI report during its launch at Bomas of Kenya on October 26, 2020.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

In the first week of December 2020, the Building Bridges Initiative Secretariat announced it had collected 5.2 million signatures in support of its proposed constitutional referendum from 28 counties.

On December 18, 2020, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission confirmed receipt of about 4.4 million signatures from the BBI Secretariat.

A month later, on January 21, 2021, the IEBC published on its website two large files listing the names of BBI supporters, and invited public scrutiny and comment with a deadline of January 25.

On January 26, the IEBC announced the BBI had secured the verified support of at least one million registered voters and the Constitutional Amendment Bill could go on to the next stage of debate by the county assemblies.

Based on the IEBC published data, we find that the relative popularity of BBI (ie as a percentage of registered voters) ranges from a high of 44 per cent of registered voters in Mandera to a low of 1.2 per cent of registered voters in Meru. The national average is 8.2 per cent.

The bottom-rung 15 counties in terms of relative popularity (percentage of registered voters) are Meru (1.24%), Nyandarua (1.35%), Kirinyaga (1.50%), Embu (1.52%), Murang’a (1.53%), Bungoma (1.60%), Baringo (1.73%), Kiambu (1.81%), Makueni (1.83%), Kilifi (2.04%). Machakos (2.11%), Nakuru (2.15%), Kitui (2.26%), Vihiga (2.49%) and Homa Bay (2.60%).

The top 15 counties in terms of relative popularity are Mandera (44%), Samburu (33%), Turkana (32%), Isiolo (23%), Tharaka Nithi (21%), Kajiado (20%), Garissa (19%), Taita Taveta (17%), Kisii (17%), Kakamega (16%), Marsabit (16%), Nyamira (16%), Kwale (16%), Narok (15%) and West Pokot (15%).                                                                       

The bottom 15 counties in terms of verified signatures are Lamu (3,160), Baringo (4,017), Nyandarua (4,531), Embu (4,694), Wajir (5,181), Kirinyaga (5,236)), Vihiga (6,785), Makueni (7,738), Meru (8,719), Laikipia (8,802), Bungoma (8,969), Murang'a (9,006), Kilifi (10,376), Kitui (10,725) and Bomet (11,514)                                                                            

Our analysis concludes that the top 15 counties in terms of signatures collected are Nairobi (258,568), Kakamega (125,325), Kisii (93,784), Kajiado (86,135), Mandera (78,128), Siaya (68,771), Turkana (61,734), Nyeri (54,272), Narok (53,169), Mombasa (51,449), Nyamira (45,954), Tharaka Nithi (45,752), Kwale (45,691), Uasin Gishu (34,956) and Garissa  (32,129).                                                                           

Bearing in mind the great effort put into popularisation of the signature collection drive by BBI’s promoters and the mass deployment of state resources and personnel to facilitate it, clearly it was not a roaring success.

Despite its prior claim of 5.2 million signatures in the 28 counties, our analysis finds that the BBI secretariat surpassed the one million signature threshold by only 30,000 registered voters across all the 47 counties.

We also find that the BBI Secretariat claim of four million-strong support (21 per cent of all registered voters) is overblown; the only verified list of BBI supporters contains between about 1.6 to 1.7 million names (about eight per cent of all registered voters).

The BBI Secretariat repeatedly over-exaggerated support for its initiative claiming, in one instance, that more than 70 per cent of registered voters in Kwale county had signed their referendum petition, yet the final tally was actually 16 per cent.

In the three counties of Ukambani (Machakos, Makueni and Kitui) the BBI Secretariat claimed to have collected 450,000 signatures. The uncomfortable truth is that less than 10 per cent of this number was confirmed; to wit, Machakos – 13,111, Makueni – 7,738 and Kitui – 10,725.

Similarly, it claimed to have collected 521,000 signatures in Nairobi, yet the verified list contains only 258,568.

In this analysis, we have taken into account that the IEBC in its final tally of verified BBI supporters rejected 574,541 names (33 per cent) for non-compliance with the constitutional requirements.

It appears from press reports that BBI Secretariat self-set targets for 28 counties, and on December 3, 2020, claimed the targets had been met.

We compared their figures with IEBC’s final report and found that a high degree of coincidence between claim and achievement was observed in only five counties — Tharaka Nithi (91.50%), Tana River (82.44%), Nyamira (76.11%), Taita Taveta (72.60%) and Kisii (72.14%).

In the mid-range of coincidence between the IEBC and BBI Secretariat’s numbers, one finds a further five counties —Nyeri (54.10%), Nairobi (49.63%), Mombasa (47.08%), Kakamega (43.99%) and Siaya (38.85%). BBI Secretariat’s national average of coincidence between claim and achievement is actually 38.2 per cent.

In other words their claims are inaccurate 61.8 per cent of the time.

In 18 counties there is a massive variance between BBI’s self-set targets (in press statements) and the actual signatures achieved as recorded in IEBC’s final report.

The BBI Secretariat signature collection under-performed in all the remaining 18 counties mentioned in its December 3, 2020, press release (starting with the worst performance) — Bungoma (4.45%), Kirinyaga (4.49%), Kilifi (4.50%), Embu (4.60%), Meru (5.13%), Vihiga (5.4%), Murang’a (5.41%), Nyandarua (5.74%), Makueni (5.95%), Machakos (5.96%), Homa Bay (7.10%), Lamu (10.20%), Kitui (10.73%), Kiambu (11.74%), Nakuru (13.26%), Kisumu (13.41%), Kwale (22.95%) and Migori (23.28%).

In conclusion, and for the reasons stated above at the time of signature collection, BBI had its lowest support in Meru, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, Embu, Murang’a, Bungoma, Baringo, Kiambu, Makueni, Kilifi, Machakos, Nakuru, Kitui, Vihiga and Homa Bay.

The Secretariat under-performed in meeting its signature collection target in every one of these counties as well as in Kisumu, Kwale and Migori counties.

It is noted that although the Constitution does not require any more than one million registered voters to support a popular initiative calling for a referendum, the IEBC’s report can be used to gauge levels of support for the BBI initiative at the time of collection of signatures.

Arguably, the verification process ought not to have proceeded in the absence of a referendum law, and there are some lawsuits before the courts on this issue.

They generally argue that first, the IEBC’s capacity to verify signatures (which are a constitutional requirement) is by its own admission doubtful as it did not collect signatures for its voters' database – collecting only fingerprints and biometrics via photography.

Second, the lawful custodian of the signatures of adult Kenyans, the Registrar of Persons, is currently not required by any referendum law to officially support the IEBC to verify signatures of referendum supporters.

Third, the argument goes that without a referendum law, no penalties for impersonation, identity theft or fraud were available to temper the temptation to exaggerate reported support for BBI in response to the unreasonable expectations or demands put on the Secretariat by BBI’s leading promoters.

Finally, they note discrepancies between the administrative procedures employed by the IEBC in the BBI verification exercise, and the procedure and timelines adopted in the case of the last two notable, but unsuccessful, efforts to amend the Constitution of Kenya by popular initiative – Okoa Kenya in 2016 and Punguza Mizigo in 2019.

Although public participation is a constitutional requirement prior to the making of any laws, the procedures and timelines for public participation in the case of a constitutional amendment bill have yet to be codified in a referendum law. However, two Bills have been pending debate before the National Assembly for at least a year.

Public statements indicate that the promoters of BBI, the IEBC, a majority of county assemblies and the Speaker of the National Assembly intend to restrict public participation to casting votes at the proposed referendum.

Mwalimu Mati is the CEO, Mars Group