The Building Bridges Initiative or the BBI Train has today officially started a clarion call for a million signatures as its first stage of actualization. According to law, the Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2020 requires one million signatures to proceed to the next stage. After collecting a million signatures, the BBI team will then submit the signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC, for verification. Once the signatures are verified, the BBI document can then be relayed to all the 47 counties for passing or rejection by the various county assemblies. The BBI needs to be passed by at least 26 county assemblies before proceeding to the Senate.
The BBI has seen strong sentiment both in proposition and opposition. The BBI report launched a few weeks back and has been relayed to the people to read it and look at what constitutional changes it aims to make. There has been strong sentiment, however, on undue prioritization of the referendum call at a time when the country is facing a pandemic. Kenya has been recording increases in the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily. The political class has been dissuaded from engaging in political bigotry and has been instead called to pool resources to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the clergy and other interest groups have made calls for a postponement of the referendum debate to a time when the country is not facing such difficult circumstances.
The Building Bridges Initiative is seen as a political creation of the 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and right honorable former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga (both pictured above). The two have come out to make calls for the people to append their signatures to the BBI proposal to see it to the next stage. The strong calls for support have, however, not dissuaded opponents of the two and the BBI from marshaling their supporters against it. Raila Odinga also made a strong argument for the BBI-proposed Ombudsman for the Judiciary saying that the Judiciary also needed to be supervised as much as it needed to remain independent. The BBI document has also come under fire for not representing the interests and views of all stakeholders, regions, communities, and parties. An excellent example is its introduction of 70 new constituencies and the inequitable way they have been distributed. Whether the BBI will see the light of day is a matter of heated debate, and it is expected that the next few months will be critical to its success or failure.
The commencement of signature collection for the BBI comes at a time when the President has shunned calls by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, DCI, to reopen the 2007 Post-Election Violence Cases. The President clearly expressed no intent to reopen said cases and unequivocally expressed wanting to forget the events of the 2007 Post-Election Violence. According to him, reopening these cases would be tantamount to destabilizing the country. The strong sentiment comes as no surprise. The possible reopening of the 2007 Post-Election Violence Cases had been seen as a way to unduly target the Deputy President, William Ruto (also pictured above), and his campaign for the Presidency in 2022.