BBI team tells IEBC to prepare for a referendum

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) secretariat now wants the electoral agency to prepare for a possible referendum in the event that the Court of Appeal rules in favour of the process.

BBI secretariat co-chair Junet Mohammed Wednesday said they expect the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be on standby for the planned plebiscite.

He said after a favourable ruling, they expect President Uhuru Kenyatta to assent to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for onward submission to IEBC.

Junet, also the National Assembly Minority Leader – said they do not expect excuses of strict timelines by the commission.

“If the Court of Appeal clears the Bill, IEBC has to prepare for a referendum. We don’t want to hear stories that they cannot conduct a referendum and a general election,” he said.

He argued that the same commission conducted a general election in August 2017 and a repeat presidential election in October.

“If they managed two presidential elections within a span of two months, nothing stops them from conducting a referendum within a year to the elections,” said Junet.

“If we get a favourable ruling, we expect the president to assent to the Bill since Parliament already approved it. It is a constitutional requirement for IEBC to conduct a referendum. They have no choice but to proceed with the exercise,” he said.

He also appealed to the National Treasury to ensure resources for the exercise are forwarded to the commission without delay should the pro-BBI team win the case.

Over the weekend in Kwale County during a meeting by the Kenya Media Sector Working Group (KMSWG), IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati noted budgetary constraints to initiate any activities apart from the recurrent expenditure.

“We have shared the election report with Parliament. We have released our Election Operation Plan (EOP) as per the constitutional timelines. The IEBC Bill is still in court and will act according to the ruling,” said Chebukati, as he kept off the referendum issue.

He revealed: “With the budget allocation in this financial year, will embark on election preparations.

Court of Appeal President Daniel Musinga and Justices Roselyn Nambuye, Hannah Okwengu, Patrick Kiage, Gatembu Kairu, Fatuma Sichale and Francis Tuiyott will make their ruling on the matter on August 20.

The court battle that could proceed up to the Supreme Court has dented hopes of a referendum before the next general election.

The next poll is set for August 9 as directed by the Constitution, implying that should the plebiscite be conducted, it would be done within the same year.

Proponents of the Bill had hoped to have the proposed changes apply in the 2022 elections. Their proposal to add 70 new constituencies tied their hands constitutionally.

Article 89 of the Constitution requires any boundary review process to commence 12 months before a general election of Members of Parliament.

However, BBI secretariat co-chairman Dennis Waweru said the Bill had addressed that legal barrier.

Waweru said they are not worried about the timelines since a proposal in the document has provided for when constituency boundaries review should be conducted.

“We are still okay in terms of the timelines. The document has waived the one-year requirement for boundaries review so we can have the referendum and still review the boundaries before the next polls,” said Waweru.

ODM chairman John Mbadi also said there is no law requiring a referendum to be conducted at a particular time before a general election.

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