Kenya: How Bbi Ruling Has Scrambled Uhuru Kenyatta's Succession Game Plan

President Kenyatta's succession game plan has been scrambled by the High Court judgment scuttling the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposed constitutional changes.

Creation of new executive positions is crucial to a power-sharing deal for an anticipated super alliance and the referendum campaigns equally offer a dress rehearsal ahead of the elections next year, political analysts and MPs the Nation interviewed yesterday said.

Rallied party leaders

Apart from forging a working relationship with opposition leader Raila Odinga following their 2018 truce, the President has also rallied party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) and Gideon Moi (Kanu) into the pro-BBI group that observers say was looking towards referendum campaigns as a springboard to presidential polls.

The BBI Bill proposes creation of the offices of Prime Minister and two deputies as well as Cabinet appointments for MPs -- positions that expand options in power sharing in addition to the presidential flagbearer and running mate slots. Others in the pro-BBI alliance are governors Charity Ngilu, Kivutha Kibwana, Alfred Mutua, Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya as well as former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi, who are all harbouring presidential ambitions.

Observers says the clause on the expanded executive is critical in accommodating all these bigwigs in an anticipated super alliance.

For Deputy President William Ruto, who has fallen out with his boss, his allies see the BBI campaign as designed to help cobble a coalition to block him from the presidency.

Hidden agenda

"It was perceived by many as being pushed down people's throats with a hidden agenda of torpedoing the DP's ambitions," claimed Murang'a Senator Irung'u Kangata, who was ousted as Senate Majority Whip, after addressing a letter critical of the BBI campaign to the President.

"This call for constitutional review is purely to prevent DP Ruto from becoming the President of this country," claimed Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.

Prof Ken Oluoch, head of the Political Science Department at Moi University says the President took a risky gamble by starting to manage his succession through a constitutional change.

"Uhuru's succession plans are in [a] shambles. It would have been advisable for him, from the start, to serve his term and retire at the end. It's not easy to influence succession under the 2010 Constitution. Just see how his plans to amend it have ended in disarray," Prof Oluoch says.

Political cheque

Political analyst Javas Bigambo also argues that the President's 'Plan A' for his succession has been dealt a serious blow by the High Court decision.

"The President's influence has been greatly diminished and the open political cheque he had has been closed... The Uhuru succession is inevitable, only that occasioning structural changes in the Constitution would give him a swift opportunity to influence much of the succession game plan," Mr Bigambo argues.

Prof X. N. Iraki of the University of Nairobi argues that an end to the BBI process is likely to scuttle dreams of the political bigwigs.

"BBI referendum will be a dress rehearsal for 2022. Politicians would love it. It will help them refine their 2022 strategies. It's more than that. If BBI goes through, winning in 2022 will be easier, just distribute the top five national positions to the regions that matter. Not holding it will scuttle lots of political dreams. Remember BBI is a political investment, the investors are awaiting returns through 2022 polls," Prof Iraki explains.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua insists BBI proponents still have a chance of success in superior courts and proceed with the BBI.

"He can use the parliamentary initiative to secure legislation that does not require a referendum, use superior courts, abandon BBI and mobilise for 2022 as if he is a presidential candidate or create road blocks for his deputy who seems happy with the ruling," Mr Mokua suggests.

After the ruling, divisions emerged in the pro-BBI team, with Prof Kibwana backing the court's decision and praising the DP for his position on the Bill.

The Bomas draft

Mr Mudavadi has suggested the shelving of the entire process in favour of a new one he says should adopt the 2002 to 2005 talks that birthed the Bomas draft.

Mr Musyoka also condemned the vilification of the High Court judges, but added that like in previous bids to amend the Constitution, Kenyans are not known to give up easily.

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna is on record, saying, ODM is working on a post-BBI alliance.

"The post-BBI alliance ODM is working on will be fresh, strong, vibrant and packed with men and women who can stand on their own and give birth to a new nation," Mr Sifuna said.

Arguing that BBI was not a bad thing, after all, Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau, an ally of Dr Ruto, says the Bill is also beneficial to the DP.

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