Deputy President William Ruto (pictured) and leaders allied to him have said placed caveats to supporting the BBI referendum, essentially placing them on a collision course with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
They hold that they will only support the Building Bridges Initiative report if only further changes are made to the document.
Ruto, while addressing the press alongside some 146 legislators and seven governors, said he also wants the vote on the BBI referendum to feature in the 2022 General Election as the seventh ballot with multiple questions.
He expressed his concerns on the dwindling economy occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic saying the Government should channel the Sh14 billion that is set to be used in the referendum towards fighting the pandemic.
“We are saying as responsible leaders, we are in the middle of a pandemic, we are in a financial crisis. We want a candid discussion, to be persuaded why we can’t do the referendum in 2022,” he said, adding such a decision will reduce costs.
Ruto’s camp also wants the BBI report to address the following; Bring back 47 Women Representatives in the National Assembly, reduce the bloated parliament as it will be a burden to the taxpayer and scrap the appointment of Judiciary Ombudsman by the Executive.
“We all agree that accountability is central to every arm of government. We are proposing an Ombudsman be appointed in a manner that Judiciary is comfortable with. We must also hold them to accountable.”
On the nomination of women, he said: “We are of the view that we want women leaders to be voted in and not become token leaders. We want elected women. Apart from 47 elected in Senate, we want the same in National Assembly reducing the number of nominations.”
He further said Kenyans should be given a room to vote for issues and not the personalisation of groupings depending on who leads YES or No as used in 2010.
“If we make the referendum 6/7 questions, Kenyans can easily vote on their preference as they do during the General Elections.”
The leaders have maintained their stand that there is room to improve the document before subjecting Kenyans to a vote next year.
“We believe it’s never too late to do the right thing. We are making the proposal on the size of parliament and executive. Kenyans are concerned on how much it will cost to run the government”
The consultative meeting of the leaders comes a week after the launch of the signature collection drive for a constitutional referendum by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Ruto was missing at the event but he appeared to show lukewarm support for the report.
He found himself in an awkward position where he may have to outrightly support the report, oppose the drive altogether, or stay away and adopt a wait and see approach.
On Saturday, in what appeared to be an about-turn move, the DP said it was a constitutional duty to assist his boss, the president.
But has also said it’s still possible to achieve consensus even after the signatures collection was launched.
President Kenyatta has on several occasions called out his deputy for failing to support BBI, a process he says Ruto was part of from the beginning.
On October 26 during the BBI launch at Bomas Dr Ruto put a strong case for his position on the BBI report as it was launched at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi.
He said the real elephant in the room was the post-polls winner-takes-it-all mentality which the BBI was trying to address by creating the position of the Prime Minister and two deputies but wondered how that would take care of other big political heavyweights who would still find themselves without political offices.
He said even with interventions such as loans and tax holidays recommended in the BBI, the root cause of poverty among the youth was unemployment which was why agriculture had to be central in the report with certain interventions such Guaranteed Minimum Returns (GMR) for farmers being put in place.
On the BBI recommendation that the Ombudsman of the Judiciary should be nominated by the President, Ruto said that would reduce the independence of the court system and called for more budgetary allocations to the judiciary saying five counties didn’t have High Courts.
Ruto said that this might take the country back to the dark days, where the president used to issue guidelines to judges in some cases via a mere phone call.
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