On Saturday August 21, 2020, it was revealed that president Kenyatta was planning to abandon the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Among other things, the president is exploring other alternatives to holding a referendum in the year 2020 due to the scourge of the deadly coronavirus. The virus is not only a public health menace, but also, an economic liability to many Kenyan citizens and corporations. Until Covid-19 is brought into control, Kenya’s economy will be so fragile that it will be imprudent to hold a super expensive referendum to make unnecessary changes to the constitution.
This is exactly what president Kenyatta is thinking. According to the report from the president’s aides who spoke to the Star, the president thinks that holding a referendum in 2020 will be insensitive to Kenyans who have been severely affected economically by the effects of Covid-19. This is because it is estimated that the referendum will cost a whopping Ksh. 10 billion at a time when the country continues to spend hundreds of billions in an effort to contain the covid-19 pandemic.
Apparently, the Kenyan government is running out of money necessary in fighting the viral disease as the number of new covid-19 infections keeps on rising.
The referendum is needed to change the constitution in order to bring in the position of a prime minister and two deputies before the next general elections are held in 2022. If successful, it is widely thought that president Kenyatta will vie for the position of the powerful prime minister as the current constitution bars him from running for the presidency for a third time. The position of a less powerful president will be reserved for the former prime minister, Mr. Raila Odinga.
Doubts about the feasibility of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the referendum have been raised before. Gatundu South MP Mr. Moses Kuria early this year said president Kenyatta was irresponsible for burdening broke Kenyans with a costly referendum that was not only unnecessary, but that do not add any value to the living standards of the common mwananchi.
Mr. Kuria is not the only Jubilee politician to throw cold water on Uhuru Kenyatta’s BBI plans. Deputy president William Ruto has termed the president’s handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative as “political conmanship”.
A fortnight ago, factions of the Mount Kenya block had threatened to abandon the handshake, BBI and the referendum altogether if the One Man, One Vote, One Shilling revenue sharing formula was rejected. Guess what, it was rejected by the senate and at least three other attempt to vote on the motion have so far been unsuccessful.
President Kenyatta has faced a lot of criticism for the illegal arrests of three senators last Monday a few hours before they were to vote at the senate for the revenue sharing formula. While the president or other higher-ups thought the arrest will deny the numbers needed to defeat the motion, the senate cited the intimidation of the said senators as the reason necessary for the adjournment of the motion until Tuesday next week.
Among the people who criticized the arrests includes deputy president William Ruto and the ODM Party leader, Mr. Raila Odinga.
Since William Ruto is the number two in the ruling Jubilee government, his harsh criticism of the illegal arrests drew condemnation from the Ministry of Interior. Fred Matiang’i, the Interior Ministry CS called for Mr. Ruto to resign and officially join the opposition. This was according to reports put forward early in the day on Friday by NTV.
But however, in the evening, Mr. Matiang’i refuted NTV’s claims and denied that he had called for the resignation of the Jubilee deputy partly leader. Fred Matiang’i said NTV has erroneously reported such claims. Fred Matiang’i instead said Mr. Ruto is the CS’s boss and hence the interior ministry CS can never say such a thing.
The news about president Kenyatta’s plans to back out of the BBI and the referendum efforts comes a week after Raila Odinga expressed optimism that there was enough money to hold the referendum later this year. Back then, Mr Odinga quipped that “the reggae did not stop, but rather, it was on half time”. I bet the former prime minister will be disappointed when president Kenyatta says he is “calling off the match”!
President Kenyatta has also come under criticism for the rampant corruption and misuse of the Covid-19 funds. Last week, NTV’s Dennis Okari exposed the theft of the Covid-19 money on his program Covid-19 Millionaires. An excerpt of Mr. Okari’s investigation can be seen here. It is alleged that president Kenyatta’s niece is one of the looters of the Covid-19 money, according to the NTV investigative reports.