Kenya: Big Win for Kenyatta, Odinga as Parliament Says Yes to BBI

Nairobi — The two top proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga won big Thursday after the National Assembly passed the Bill.

Members of the National Assembly passed the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 also known as the BBI Bill on Thursday night, setting in motion its next phase of implementation through a national referendum.

235 out of the 320 members who participated in the voting exercise on the Second Reading of the Bill supported it against 83 who rejected. Two abstained.

The vote was largely divided along MPs allied to President Kenyatta and Raila against those loyal to Deputy President William Ruto who had vowed to shoot down the bill, following a series of meetings at his official residence in Karen and during countrywide political rallies.

The House then proceeded to plenary where a vote on the Bill on it's Third Reading was taken.

The vote that lasted four hours was conducted through roll call as other members voted virtually.

The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi will now retreat to embark on the correctio of typographical errors in the Bill before transmitting it to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent.

Before assenting to the Bill, President Kenyatta shall request the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct, within ninety days, a national referendum for approval of the Bill, subject to the determination of pending court cases challenging the Bill's constitutionality.

Once the court gives the electoral body the green light to prepare the national referendum, within thirty days after IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati confirms to the President that the Bill has been approved in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published.

The passage of the Bill followed the conclusion of its debate after members approved a procedural motion by House Majority Leader Amos Kimunya to end its debate and proceed to vote.

During the Thursday debate, varied reactions were given by members regarding the Bill with the House leadership led by Kimunya rooting for its adoption.

The Kipipiri legislator noted that the contents of the Bill once implemented would open a new chapter for Kenya that of peace and inclusivity.

"I want to thank all the members who have made their contribution to this historic debate and I want to recognize that as expected the opinions were divided as the members some represented their people, some represented themselves and some represented their political factions but the bottom line is that we are all richer in opinion," he said.

The House Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore faulted those who were opposed to the Bill and castigated them for being selfishly motivated instead of looking out for the interests of their constituents.

"Those who are opposing the Bill are not opposing it because of its contents but because they feel sidelined and it is this kind of politics that the Bill is addressing... Those opposing the Bill are bald headed cowards," he said.

The House Minority Leader Junet Mohammed (Suna East) noted that the Bill once approved by Kenyans would go a long way in cementing Kenya's unity and foster prosperity.

"We are going to have an inclusive govt as the positions will be shared equally among communities in the country. These are the ills that this Bill is trying to cure. Let us not forget where we are coming from," he said.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Glady's Wanga noted that the Bill once implemented would improve the country's economic situation.

"There is an argument that we should first fix the economy before we talk BBI but I want to state that the economy follows the politics and if the politics falls then the economy falls," she said.

A section of deputy President William Ruto allies who many largely rejected the Bill also voiced their opposition on the Bill saying it was unfortunate that the Bill has been given too much focus and yet it is not a priority.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale who voted no said it is founded on a "lie and that Kenyans should not be cheated that once its passed it will cure the problems ailing the country."

"There are may people who are telling us about inclusivity. I want to challenge anybody to tell me that by the passage of this Bill there will be no post election violence. I want somebody to tell me if this Bill has united Kenyans or divided Kenyans. The Presidency is divided. Constitution are not meant for leaders but for the people to check on the leadership," he said.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany noted that the country has more pressing issues and accused the government of having its priorities wrong. He also voted no for the Bill.

"This BBI Bill is widely spoken about but very unpopular. I am very uncomfortable debating this Bill at the moment when we have more serious priorities as a country. Other nations are discussing how to vaccinate their populations while others on how to manufacture but sadly we are the only country in the world where we are discussing a change of the constitution," he said.

Other members who voted no include: Joyce Emanikor (Turkana), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Tecla Tum (Nandi), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Gladys Shollei (Uasin Gishu), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) among others.

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