As President Uhuru Kenyatta gathered proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative to launch the collection of signatures, his deputy took to his new favourite medium of communication, Twitter.
“Even with the SIGNATURE launch there is still a real chance at CONSENSUS for a NON-DIVISIVE referendum that will give Kenyans the opportunity to EXPRESS themselves without an US vs THEM, WIN vs LOSE contest. UNITY is the STRENGTH needed to fight COVID19 and organise the ECONOMY,” he said.
The launch went ahead, the President and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga appended their signatures to the Bill, and the drive has proceeded, with the key political leaders doing likewise. Later, a write-up outlining the changes made to the report and reflected in the Bill went viral as proponents of the BBI said they would have no issue going to a contested referendum.
The accommodation of Deputy President’s softly couched demands has left his camp in limbo. Opponents of the BBI see in the Deputy President a formidable political figurehead for their push against the State-backed initiative. The former PM’s troops view that as an opportunity to humiliate him, show his lack of political acumen and backing, and a chance to gauge their strength ahead of the next election.
His dithering leaves the opponents rudderless, although they are also gathering a formidable force with the backing of civil society groups and intellectuals such as Dr David Ndii and Prof Kivutha Kibwana.
As the signature gathering was launched, one of its main proponents, Odinga, has had to defend himself against claims that he once again succumbed to pressure and conceded key points. It has happened to him before, in 2010 when he let go of the bid for a parliamentary system and in 2017 in the reform of the electoral commission.
The accommodation of the DP’s demands appears to have been made possible by the President over the last two weeks, when he stopped the launch of the signatures collection and held a meeting with Ruto.
The moves have left him firmly in charge, as the process continues as his ‘brothers’ each confront different challenges: one has to prove his agenda is on course and has not been watered down while another has to find his footing afresh.