Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga plan to whip over 40 county assemblies to vote for the Building Bridges Initiative report and thereby scuttle any plot to defeat the referendum.
Fear has been that William Ruto and his allies will hijack BBI by supporting it when initially they were opposed to it. The voters in the 40 counties are also expected to vote en-masse for the report during the referendum.
The document which was prepared by state agencies months before the report was released in Kisii county, clusters the 47 counties into three blocs – strongholds, battlegrounds and red zones. In the cluster, 27 counties are marked as strongholds and marked as white, 12 as battlegrounds and marked as green while eight are hostile and marked as red.
The strongholds, according to the report, are regions the report will get massive backing while battlegrounds are those that will be swayed, through monetary incentives and development projects, to support the initiative. The hostile regions are expected to oppose the report. The report further gives budgetary estimates’ on the amount of money to be spent in the regions, with the 12 marked as battlegrounds receiving the lion’s share of the budget while the hostile will get the least amount.
Insiders revealed that the euphoric reception accorded to Uhuru in Kisumu, the political bedrock of Raila, was part of the strategy to set the pace in marketing the report.
After the launch of the report, the president is expected to hit the ground running to campaign for it, starting with Mount Kenya counties that voted him to a man in the last elections but are now marked as battlegrounds since they are gravitating towards Ruto. That Uhuru might not have it as smooth was seen in Pumwani, Nairobi last week when crowds visibly hungry just glared at him indifferently as he shouted at the top of his voice selling the report.
Though Ruto by the time of going to press had not indicated whether he will support or reject the report, Uhuru and Raila, insiders noted, believe he will oppose the report either directly or indirectly through proxies, and hence have devised strategies to counter him. Others sources say that pro-BBI strategists want to force Ruto to oppose the report at the referendum thus the current attacks on him by Uhuru and Raila openly. Indeed, Uhuru and Raila seem out to hijack the hustler movement from Ruto going by the sudden change of their narrative which now is seeing them talking of bodabodas and mama mbogas. Consequently, Ruto is reportedly crafting a message to take credit for this sudden change of conversation.
This is leaving Uhuru and Raila in a tricky corner they claim that if allowed to join those supporting the report, Ruto will own it after initially being against and render the real owners irrelevant. It is against this background that Ruto sees himself as winner in the shenanigans because if the two decide to sideline him even as he supports the initiative, it will confirm to Kenyans that there is something wicked they have against Ruto up their sleeve.
The BBI campaigns, in line with the recommendations of the report, started in Kisumu and Kisii which are marked as strongholds for the BBI adoption of the report. The president and Raila received the report in Kisii.
Other counties marked as strongholds are Nyamira, Homa Bay, Migori, Busia, Siaya, Bungoma, Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, TaitaTaveta, Kajiado, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, Wajir, Kitui, Mombasa, Kajiado, Narok, Kwale, Kilifi, Nairobi and Samburu.
The insiders revealed that the president and Raila are confident the 27 county assemblies will pass the report thereby setting the stage for the referendum. The constitution stipulates that at least 24 of the 47 county counties must pass any bill presented as a popular initiative before a referendum or endorsement by the one million voters if presented as a parliamentary initiative.
During the unveiling of the report at Kisii State Lodge, Raila announced the draft would be presented as a popular initiative under article 257 of the constitution to the counties and was confident it would be passed by 24 of them as constitutionally required, in two weeks.
Under the popular initiative, the draft bill and supporting signatures are presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which verifies it, is supported by at least one million registered voters.
The IEBC then submits the draft bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months and once approved by 24 of them, it is introduced in parliament and if passed submitted to the president for assent and then the proposed amendment submitted to the people in a referendum. What is leaving discerning Kenyans hillarious however is the fact that the same IEBC Uhuru and Raila expect to use to execute their mission is going to be victim number one of the same report if it is adopted. Raila has been talking of one giving chicken grain so that he catches it and slaughters it but he is here giving the chicken a knife to slaughter itself. That the chicken is not keen on cutting its own neck being seen by the reaction of IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati who has opposed the report. Question is: will Chebukati cooperate?
Insiders revealed that Uhuru and Raila are confident Kisii and Nyamira counties will back the report given that one of the most powerful government officials, Interior cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i, hails from the region. Besides Matiang’i, another high ranking government official from the region is Chief Justice David Maraga, who is set to retire. The CJ, however, is in bad books with the president.
Sources added that to further entice the region to back the report, the president after presiding over Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kisii, launched multimillion shillings projects in Kisii and Nyamira.
Besides, Kisii was the first county to host the BBI rally that was attended by national leaders including several governors, senators, MPs, MCAs, elders, religious leaders, women and youth leaders and other professionals from across the Nyanza region.
The rally was held at the Kisii Sports Club grounds with Kisii governor James Ongwae, a key supporter of the initiative, playing host.
It was attended by all governors from the lake region bloc — John Nyagarama (Nyamira), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Okoth Obado (Migori), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Cornel Rasanga (Siaya). All of them are backing the initiative.
Insiders added that Kisumu, Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay counties which are the political bedrock of Raila are expected to back the BBI.
To firm up its support, the president in the company of Raila launched multimillion shillings projects in Kisumu that include the Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex.
During the launch, dozens of residents lined up to greet the two leaders with some displaying placards expressing their support for the report.
Further, Raila has also made peace with Obado, a key leader who would have swayed his Migori county to oppose the report were he to join Ruto’s camp. The truce has now calmed tensions in South Nyanza and brought together all the local leaders to rally behind the report. In the document also marked as friendly counties that will back the report are Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties.
The governors in the four counties, Oparanya, Ojaamong, Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), are backing the report. Kakamega, whose governor is the deputy party leader ODM and a key supporter of the initiative, was the second county to host the BBI rally where all local leaders demanded the Luhya community secure representation in the next government through the BBI.
The president also managed to bring on board key political bigwigs from the region at Bukhungu Stadium. They included Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula who is Bungoma senator, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Cotu boss Francis Atwoli.
Mudavadi and Wetang’ula had earlier indicated they would attend a parallel rally at Nabongo Grounds in Mumias, dubbed ‘Western Kenya’s economic meeting’. Atwoli is one of the movers behind BBI. According to sources, Atwoli has been tasked by Uhuru and Raila to deliver the workers vote to back BBI.
The Nabongo meeting which had been organised by politicians allied to Ruto aborted after police dispersed the gathering using tear gas.
Those dispersed included former Sports minister Rashid Echesa, former Kakamega senator Bonnie Khalwale and Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali. Sources revealed that also marked as friendly is Kitui county, whose governor Charity Ngilu is a strong backer of the BBI. Reports indicate that the governor is eyeing a national post after losing flavour among locals in Kitui where she is not assured of retaining her seat.
The county was the third to host the BBI rally in a ceremony that was attended by other Ukambani governors – Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos). Also in attendance was Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who was treated as outsider by Ngilu and Raila.
The hardboiled radical Kibwana is now gravitating towards Ruto’s camp with signals he might oppose the referendum while Mutua, who has declared he will go for the presidency in a strategy to up his stakes to negotiate for a coalition with a leading presidential contender, has vowed to oppose the report saying it is yet another conjob on poor Kenyans whom he said want money in the pockets and not a tribal chief in big offices.
Also marked in the document as friendly is Garissa which besides hosting a BBI rally, is also the home of BBI chair Yusuf Haji, the area senator. Uhuru and Raila are pegging their hopes on Haji to rally the region behind the BBI. For Kajiado and Narok, which are marked as friendly counties, the they are relying on the influence of governors Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado) and Samuel Tunai (Narok) to deliver the two assemblies and votes.
Lenku, now a critic of the deputy president has total hold of the county assembly while Tunai is expected to rally the Maasai community to back the report. For Mombasa and Taita Taveta, sources added, they are relying on governors Hassan Joho and Granton Samboja to deliver the counties to BBI.
Joho who is serving his second and final term is eyeing a deputy premier post while Samboja has severed ties with Ruto and declared support for the initiative. Mombasa was also among the counties that hosted a BBI rally. Insiders revealed that the counties marked in the document as battlegrounds include Machakos, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Nakuru, Kiambu, Murang’a, Embu, Meru, Nyandarua, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia, West Pokot, Marsabit and Mandera.
In these counties which voted for the president almost to a man in the last elections, Uhuru is expected to lead campaigns to drum up support for the initiative and at the same time water down Ruto’s influence.
His pointpersons who include Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru and Nyandarua’s Francis Kimemia are now burning the midnight oil trying to prepare the ground for Uhuru to kick off BBI campaigns.
There are reports that in two weeks time, the president will address the community through the vernacular radio stations to explain to them why he parted way with his deputy.
The president, insiders added, will first tour the region alone before bringong Raila on board in the other forays. Insiders add that Meru, which is marked as a battleground, is giving the president a headache after area governor KiraituMurungi sent mixed signals on the report.
Ahead of the BBI launch, Kiraitu said he was undecided on whether he would rally the region to support the report, arguing that there is need to first scrutinise the document before making a decision.
It is the same case with Tharaka Nithi also marked as battleground where area Senator Kithure Kindiki has dismissed the report, describing it as too much flowery language and an attempt to rewrite the constitution afresh, adding it doubles the size of parliament (wage bill) and seeks to reward ethnic chiefs from the five big ethnic communities to the exclusion of the other 39 communities.
In the document, Governor Muthomi Njuki is expected to lead the troops to sway the community to support the report. Two weeks ago, the governor, as part of the campaigns, hosted top national government officials led by Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho, to inspect development projects as part of a strategy to market BBI. Another region marked as battleground is Nakuru, home to majority Kikuyu and Kalenjins.
The region had been set to host a BBI rally before it was postponed following the outbreak of the Covid-19. The president has tasked area governor Lee Kinyanjui, whom he had picked to lead the BBI troops, to sway the county assembly and voters to back the report.
Insiders added that the president and Raila have almost given up in nine counties marked as hostile, most of them Kalenjin dominated or dominated by pastoralists. They are Baringo, Bomet, Nandi, Kericho, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo/Marakwet, Isiolo and Turkana. These regions are the political bedrock of Ruto and according to the document, will vote largely in the direction the DP gives them. Nevertheless, the president has tasked Governor Alex Tolgos of Elgeyo Marakwet to lead the BBI campaigns.
Tolgos, a known critic of DP Ruto, is teaming up with MPs Joshua Kuttuny of Cherangany and William Kamket of Tiaty, along with Kanu leaders including secretary general Nick Salat. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the leaders had started preparing the ground for BBI meetings that were to be attended by Raila.
They had also attended the rallies held in Kakamega, Kisii, Garissa and Mombasa regions where they were vocal that the region is not Ruto’s backyard. Former Machakos senator Johnson Muthama declared he would lead the onslaught against the report.
Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua has rubbished the report saying it is neutralising the position of deputy president by introducing the position of prime minister and Kenyans should reject it at all costs.
In Ruto’s backyard, Elgeyo/Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has dismissed the report, describing it as a total sum of all the parochial attitudes and behaviours of politicians creating positions for themselves at the top.
There have been reports that to armtwist governors, senators and MPs to back the report, graft cases will be opened against them.
How counties will vote in BBI campaign