BBI referendum will flop in Mt Kenya, Uhuru warned

Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Parliament have warned him that the government will lose the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum in his Mt Kenya backyard and the governor’s race in Nairobi in a bare-knuckle letter seen by the Nation.

The evaluation is likely to send shock waves in government, coming from the men and women likely to spearhead referendum campaigns for the BBI constitutional Bill.

In the letter written by Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata and addressed to President Kenyatta and Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju dated December 30, the communication reveals the challenges the government faces politically.

“BBI is unpopular in Mt Kenya. For every 10 persons I surveyed, six oppose it, two support it and the other two are indifferent…if we do not take urgent measures, I will pin myself permanently in the pillar of the shame of the spectacular defeat,” reads the letter.

Why BBI is unpopular

Mr Kang’ata cites three reasons that are making BBI unpopular — it is being framed as a Jubilee factional agenda spearheaded only by the Kieleweke side; the notion that BBI will expand Parliament and claims that government supporting legislators in the region have been edged out of BBI programmes in favour of their local political competitors.

The letter also says politicians in the region who are against the BBI are employing common-people language in their campaigns while the government’s narrative is being sold by civil servants with limited political skills. The situation is being worsened by the hard economic times facing residents.

“I will cite the example of Kangema MP, Hon Muturi Kigano, who has been steadfastly supporting government since 2017. He chairs the strategic committee of Justice and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly. Notwithstanding this, his political rival is spearheading BBI in Kangema to Kigano’s exclusion. This grievance is silently brewing among MPs in the National Assembly. A number of them are ‘komerera’ (political double agents) who are bidding (sic) their time before they bolt out.”

Mr Kang’ata Sunday refused to comment on the matter when asked if he had received a response on the issues raised.

“Where did you get the letter? It is a private document that was meant for internal consumption by our party leaders,” he answered the Nation.

Plans to bolt out

But sources said the letter was written after consultation with leaders supporting Mr Kenyatta, who fear that some lawmakers disgruntled with how BBI is being sold are planning to bolt out.

At the weekend, Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, who has been a supporter of President Kenyatta, crossed over to the Tangatanga side and explained that he defected for his own political survival.

“He (Kang’ata) has our blessings because he is telling the truth. We need a conversation as Jubilee,” said a senator from eastern region who did not want to be named to avoid sanctions by Jubilee.

To promote BBI, he proposes the President takes charge of rallying leaders to back it, the option of a multiple question referendum to save the “good things the initiative has” and minimising the role of provincial administration in the process.

“On the issue of provincial administration and use of hard tactics, I propose when one is strong, he or she must act weak, and when one is weak he or she must act strong. Government has an iron fist. I propose we find ways government wears velvet gloves…Provincial administration in BBI process should be invisible.”

Mr Kang’ata also proposes a parallel BBI supporting structure headed by a quasi-politician be established to manage MPs.


“Maybe a well-resourced office of the secretary-general can suffice. This office should be doing the ‘selling’ of government agenda in the region including BBI, which for now seems to be uncoordinated. On the issue of economic deprivation, I politely propose the philosophy underpinning the government’s last budget in 2021/2022 FY can be recasted (sic) to tilt to some degree towards income boosting measures like widening welfarism including cash transfer programmes.”

The letter also raises the alarm about disorganisation of the Jubilee Party in the upcoming Nairobi gubernatorial by-election, warning of a possible loss by the party’s candidate, which will have ‘not-so-good’ political consequences that will permeate into BBI and possibly torpedo it.

“Whereas I cannot dismiss the candidates who have offered themselves to stand with our party, my hunch feeling (and I could be wrong) tells me competitors on offer have a better trajectory going into the race.”

Mr Kang’ata explained that some competitors are more eloquent and better at penetrating informal settlements.

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