Prepare for a referendum, Raila tells IEBC

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga addressing the media at the party’s headquarters in Nairobi on August 13, 2020. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Chebukati said a referendum can be held any time provided the process complies with constitutional provisions, the referendum law and other regulations.
  • Mr Odinga said BBI would ensure no blood is shed because of elections.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga on Thursday told the electoral agency to prepare for a referendum.

Mr Odinga said the “unstoppable” plebiscite would be held as soon as he and President Uhuru Kenyatta receive the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

Some politicians, especially those drawn from Deputy President William Ruto’s Tangatanga wing of the ruling Jubilee Party, want the vote held alongside the 2022 General Election “to cut costs”.

Mr Odinga said the time “is now and BBI will start walking again”.

“They said reggae stopped. It did not stop. It only went for half time. Players have been getting massage and instructions from coaches,” he said at Chungwa House during the swearing-in of newly appointed officials to the party elections board and disciplinary committee.

Prepare for vote

“We have been doing some overhaul and reggae will be back shortly.”

He asked Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati to prepare for the vote.

“There is money and we can teach Chebukati how to do it. We are going to show them how to do it,” Mr Odinga said.

The plebiscite, he added, must be conducted before the 2022   elections “because voters should not be confused with many ballot papers”.

“When there are six ballots and you want to add another one to illiterate voters, it will not work,” he said.

Contacted later, Mr Chebukati said a referendum can be held any time provided the process complies with constitutional provisions, the referendum law and other regulations.

“The commission is ready to execute this constitutional mandate upon receipt of ample notice and a budgetary allocation for the activities,” the IEBC chief said.

No blood is shed

He added that the commission is putting in place guidelines for its activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Odinga said Kenyan elections have been costly “because of corruption”, adding that it is possible to spend Sh2 billion on a plebiscite.

“Some people say there is no money for a referendum. That it is very expensive. Others say billions of shillings have been spent on BBI. This is wrong. We do not need to use billions in a referendum. The money issue should not arise,” he said.

Mr Odinga said BBI would ensure no blood is shed because of elections.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech accused Mr Odinga of insensitivity and arrogance.

“That is a selfish lot of politicians. We say it is impossible after analysing the impracticality of the referendum,” Mr Koech said.

“Raila says Sh40 billion is exaggerated. Even if the budget is reduced to a quarter of that, the sum is still huge. There is no proper IEBC in place, coronavirus numbers are rising sharply and the environment is not conducive to queue and vote, leave alone popularising the contents. Kenyans have lost jobs. Where does he get the guts to say that?”

He added that Mr Odinga and his followers are running out of time “to regularise their selfish ambitions through amendments to the Constitution”.

“That should not give them a licence to bulldoze their ambitions,” he said.

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