Deputy President William Ruto now wants the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum to be held in 2022 alongside the General Election to allow for consensus-building as well as to save on public funds.
DP Ruto spoke during a press address at his Karen residence after holding a consultative meeting with his TangaTanga allies include 146 MPs and Senators and 7 governors.
The DP, in his speech as well as a statement, read to the press by his allies, questioned the legitimacy of spending billions on a referendum only one year ahead of an election that will cost the taxpayers even billions more.
He, instead, noted that funds set aside for the impending referendum instigated by the BBI process should be set aside towards efforts of mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in the country.
“We must consider the circumstance which we find ourselves in as a country. We’re in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has ravaged our country killing close to 1,500 Kenyans including our frontline health workers, infecting nearly 100,000 Kenyans, straining the public health sector, and instigating an economic meltdown,” stated former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.
“It is legitimate to question the wisdom of spending Ksh.14 billion a year before an election that will cost us another Ksh.42 billion going by 2017 figures of IEBC when a referendum could be conducted as the seventh ballot in a General Election at virtually no cost.”
The DP and his team also sought to discount a Yes or No referendum saying a constitutional amendment is too weighty an issue to be subjected to such a “simplistic approach” and should instead be a multiple-choice affair based on issues affecting Kenyans.
He however also declined to be drawn into a discussion of whether he will, if his recommendations are not considered in the final BBI bill, vote Yes or No for the document.
According to the DP, “our stand is that it is never too late to do the right thing,” and that the door on their recommendations cannot be shut because “this is our country, what is the rush? Nobody can shut down a good proposal.”
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, reiterating this stance, said: “We care far too much for our country and fellow Kenyans to reduce this important exercise to a question of Yes and No; not just because it is premature and simplistic, but because there is real progress towards a consensus that we need to resolve outstanding issues inclusively, exhaustively and conclusively. Democracy provides us with infinite opportunity for deliberative consensus building, it is how great societies are built.”
“We have been asked what we mean by consensus. The consensus we seek, and this country needs, is in relation to content, process and timing. In short, we must agree on the What, the How, and When.”
The MP further added: “By content, we mean we resolve all outstanding issues through consensus including issues on judicial independence, bloated government and legislature, equity and equality in representation and affirmative action among others. By process, we mean providing a multiple-choice plebiscite to prevent the rejection of good ideas. By timing we mean we should hold the referendum in 2022 together with the General Elections in order to save costs and redirect available resources to mitigating the effects of COVID-19.”
The BBI report, as is, suggests the increase of Parliament by over 200 members from 416 seats to 640. This, the DP said, is untenable and a hugely unsustainable burden on the taxpayer, stating that his proposal will instead lower the number by up to 60 or 70 members thereby saving costs.
His team further proposed that in addition to the 47 women elected to the Senate, as recommended in the BBI report, the 47 Women Representatives elected to the National Assembly should also be brought back to allow for women to be nominated to cabinet positions.