Uhuru and Ruto meet as BBI fete launch deferred

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Deputy President William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta after the State of the Nation address at Parliament Buildings. 

Photo credit: DPPS

What you need to know:

  • Details of three-hour meeting between President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto remain scanty.
  • DP's aides downplayed the significance of the meeting between the two leaders.

President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto on Wednesday held three-hour talks.

At the same time, the launch of signature collection for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum was postponed indefinitely last evening. 

The afternoon meeting between the two at State House was key because it came as the President and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga had planned to launch the collection of a million signatures on Thursday to back the draft Constitutional Amendment Bill. 

It also came about an hour after Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga met women leaders in last-minute talks to support the BBI report on a day of high drama in which invitations to the signature launch were confirmed and shelved. 

Details of the meeting, which started at 3pm, and from which aides were kept away, were scanty.

But the abrupt cancellation of the event fuelled speculation that it could have been as a consequence of the private talks. 

The BBI secretariat said the postponement was due to the late publication of the Bill.

“The BBI secretariat wishes to announce the postponement of the launch of the collection of signatures earlier scheduled for November 19,” read a statement signed by the secretariat co-chairpersons Junet Mohamed (National Assembly Minority Leader) and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru. 

“The postponement has been necessitated by late completion and publication 0f the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, which is scheduled for printing later tonight.” 

“The secretariat is working on a new date with a comprehensive programme of activities which will be communicated in due course.” 

Amend BBI report

The DP is opposed to some of the proposals in the Bill and had pushed for talks to amend the BBI report — a door that would have been effectively shut today because the draft Bill cannot be changed once the signatures are being collected. 

A tweet the DP posted shortly before the meeting suggested his quest to ensure he is not portrayed as an opponent of the referendum. 

“I love this country enough never to be part of any ‘war.’ Not when there is a possibility for a win-win consensus beckoning. An us-versus-them, Yes/No contest that will lead to lose-lose outcome is unnecessary and unwarranted. A non-contested referendum is possible,” the DP tweeted at 1pm. 

Reached for comment, his aides downplayed the significance of a meeting between the President and his deputy. 

“How is such a meeting news?” asked Emmanuel Talam, the DP’s communication director.

State House spokesperson Kanze Dena neither answered our calls nor responded to text messages. 

In recent days, even when it became apparent that calls to amend the report would not be entertained, the DP has dismissed suggestions that he would lead the “No” campaign. 

During the launch of the BBI report at Bomas of Kenya, he asked how the creation of the posts of prime minister and two deputies would address winner-take-all situation given the winning party or coalition of parties would still share out the top posts. 

The DP also raised concerns about the office of Judiciary Ombudsman, whose holder is to be appointed by the President, creation of a council dominated by presidential appointees to oversee the police and appointment of electoral commissioners by political parties. 

When asked if the DP will attend today’s launch, Mr Talam said: “I’ve no idea if he’s invited.” 

While Mr Kenyatta has maintained a relatively hands-off approach in the push since he and Mr Odinga met MPs in Naivasha a fortnight ago, the ODM leader has virtually taken full control of the initiative. 

Appearing to be deploying divide-and-rule tactics to win support, Mr Odinga has been holding meetings with several groups.

On the sides and seemingly left by the fast-moving BBI train, the DP, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, the church, the pastoralist group and ward representatives have been demanding the opening up of the document to amend clauses they say will deny them the chance to include their issues in the referendum push.

Popularise the report

Mr Odinga has met members of the pastoralist communities, Frontier Counties Development Council, governors from western and Nyanza, the County Assemblies Forum and together with the President, held a meeting with political party leaders, including Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Mr Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Mr Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).

Following a raft of resolutions and recommendations for amendments to the report made by several groups, Mr Odinga started reaching out to like-minded individuals in those groups, saying, it is no longer tenable to rally everybody to support the report.

Wednesday's meeting brought together at least 25 women leaders who assured the two leaders of their support, sources revealed.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who is one of the people leading the drive in Mt Kenya, told the Nation that they discussed gender-related issues in the report and how their implementation will enhance equity in leadership.

“We assured the two leaders of our support and will popularise the report as it seeks to give women opportunities in leadership,” she said.

The women leaders cited the provision for one man and one woman to be elected to the Senate from every county; the requirement for governor candidates to pick running mates from the opposite gender; and the demand that the electoral commission ensures party lists for nomination after election meet the rule that no gender has more than two-thirds of elective and appointed positions.

“When mothers are happy, Kenya is happy. Women wish to transform themselves into a BBI army, disseminating and creating awareness on the gender gains through regional forums and county town halls,” they said.