Kenya: Raila Odinga Places Hurdle in BBI Campaigns

ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday alluded to the possibility of reopening the Building Bridges Initiative document with the promise of an extra constituency in Busia, exposing the headache facing the pro-BBI team as nationwide campaigns begin.

Under pressure from local leaders led by Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong' and Teso South MP Geoffrey Omuse, who demanded a constituency even as they pledged to continue supporting the BBI, Mr Odinga said Teso South will be split into two.

It was the second time in less than a month that Mr Odinga was promising a constituency to a county the BBI Bill does not state as gaining an electoral unit. On February 9, he made a similar promise to Homa Bay and Siaya residents.

Like in Homa Bay three weeks ago, Mr Odinga yesterday blamed the Government Printer for the fact that Busia missed out on the constituencies

"BBI has added more constituencies. The recommendations were given to the Government Printer," Mr Odinga said referring to the agency tasked with printing of bills, government policies, and the Kenya Gazette -- the official government document. "Here in Busia, Teso South will be split into two constituencies," Mr Odinga said after attending a service at Lwanya Catholic Church.

BBI Bill

Mr Omuse was the first to ask Mr Odinga to consider the county in the sharing of constituencies.

"We are the only ones who have been left out on the list of 70 constituencies. We are asking for a constituency in favour of the support we have for BBI. Busia (county assembly) was number four and the first outside Nyanza to pass the BBI Bill. We want to support BBI 100 per cent," said Mr Omuse.

But Mr Odinga asked the MP to first leave the tangatanga political wing that is led by Deputy President William Ruto. However, the MP affirmed that he is not part of the Jubilee Party splinter group.

It remains unclear how Mr Odinga will deliver the new constituency to Busia County as the 70 available slots--which BBI proposed be added to raise the number of constituencies to 360--have already been distributed.

The BBI Bill, which has received overwhelming approval in 42 counties so far, way above the 24-county constitutional threshold required to secure a referendum, is already past the stage of editing as the required one million signatures were collected on the basis of the specific provisions in the bill. This includes the list showing which counties will benefit from the proposed extra electoral units.

The promise by the ODM leader is coming at a time when several other counties are crying foul after they were left out of the sharing of the 70 new constituencies proposed by the BBI report.

Five constituencies

In the distribution, the former western province got five constituencies. Three went to Bungoma, two to Kakamega while Busia and Vihiga missed out.

Residents of Hamisi in Vihiga County also want their constituency split on grounds that it is vast.

And as the BBI team plans countrywide rallies starting with a planned handshake anniversary meeting of all elected county and national leaders, it appears, given the experience in Busia yesterday, that the matter of the distribution of the 70 constituencies is not about to die soon.

The BBI Bill states that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) delimits boundaries of the 70 extra constituencies it has proposed within six months after the law has been approved in a referendum.

To avoid the legal lacuna that bars additional constituencies created in a boundary review one year to a General Election from applying in the 2022 poll, the BBI Bill has added a transitional clause to ensure that Kenyans elect MPs in the 70 constituencies in the 2022 polls.

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