The BBI signature collection drive began with a low turnout on Saturday in Deputy President William Ruto’s political bastion of Uasin Gishu County.
The exercise was officiated by County Commissioner Stephen Kihara and ODM Devolution Secretary Kipkorir Menjo, who urged residents to sign, saying the constitutional review is meant to bolster their economic well-being.
Mr Kihara said no one will be forced to sign and that people with concerns about the Building Bridges Initiative are free to ask questions as those supporting it are ready to give explanations.
“Everyone has a right to do what pleases him or her. Therefore, no one is going to be forced to take part in this exercise,” he said.
He added, however, “I am currently talking to the local leadership to ensure people do not oppose the document.”
More than 320 booklets have been given to chiefs in the county, for residents to sign, and the county commissioner said all information about registered voters will be disclosed. The signatures of registered voters are required to back the draft constitutional amendment Bill.
Mr Menjo also urged the people to append their signatures, saying the initiative will result in the improvement of their lives.
“Let us not politicise but embrace this exercise because it is meant to take our country to the next level. No one should be left out,” said Mr Menjo.
Local politicians and many residents gave the signing, which took place along Oginga Odinga street in Eldoret town, a wide berth, likely because Dr Ruto has not clearly stated his position while his allies have poked holes in the report
Meanwhile, Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, a key player in the BBI process in the region, criticised its opponents, saying they are being unrealistic.
Mr Tolgos said the BBI is the best thing that has ever happened to counties like Elgeyo Marakwet, which have been complaining of underfunding.
He wondered where leaders from the area, who are “talking ill of the initiative when it is about to be passed”, were when it was taking shape.
“How can a leader from a county like Elgeyo Marakwet go against a proposal that will add Sh3 million to its annual revenue allocation? That is that highest level of self-centeredness and insensitivity to the needs of the people.”
The governor added that signature collection in the Rift Valley will take place as planned despite some leaders’ opposition to the BBI.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang earlier said he will not allow signature collection in his county as residents are opposed to the initiative but Mr Tolgos said nothing will stop signature collection in Nandi.
The governor further said politicians who are against the BBI should be tolerant of the process and allow those supporting it to popularise it.
“We will do the same when they will have their meetings,” he said.
Elgeyo Marakwet’s ODM chairperson Micah Kigen said the county is ready for the process and that many of the residents will sign.
“We should be discussing sections of the document which some leaders want amended. Rubbishing the entire document is the highest level of hypocrisy,” said Mr Kigen.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei also registered his opposition and asked ward representatives not to be part of what he termed “political conmanship”.
“MCAs should not accept to be used in passing a document which is meant to divide the country. In the signature collection format and guidelines, why was Rift Valley left out?” posed Senator Cherargei.
Signature collection also kicked off in Nyeri County
County Commissioner Lyford Kibaara and Governor Mutahi Kahiga launched the process on Saturday, with the latter leading the signing.
Also present were Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and his Tetu counterpart James Gichuhi.
The leaders called on residents to sign the document, which they said will be available at the local sub chiefs’ offices around the county.
“The Constitution is a dynamic document. It is something that changes as we continue to grow,” Governor Kahiga noted.
“Maybe there are parts which do not satisfy us as the people of Nyeri as we wanted another constituency but we have to remember there will be other amendments later. I have instructed my ward administrators to work closely with the chiefs and sub chiefs so that we can do our part,” he added.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga launched the signature collection earlier this week. A digital platform was also set up for the initiative.
Mr Gichuhi said, “Tetu is one of the constituencies that were protected under the Constitution. If there were no amendments, it would have been written off together with Mukurweini and Othaya.”