Kenya: Raila accuses Ruto of hyprocrisy after he proposes BBI reforms he once opposed

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 13 December 2022 11:22

Kenya's President William Ruto arrives to inspect a guard of honour mounted by members of the Kenya Air Force, part of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) before addressing a joint sitting of Parliament in Nairobi, Kenya September 29, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga has accused President William Ruto of double-speak and political hypocrisy after he issued four proposals to Parliament to amend the constitution.

Raila has questioned Ruto’s intentions after he reintroduced the very amendments he had once opposed through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which was stopped by the Supreme Court on grounds of being unconstitutional.

BBI was an initiative to amend the constitution that came after Raila and former President Uhuru Kenyatta reached a political “Handshake” following the contested 2017 presidential polls.

“Had Mr. Ruto been honest about the BBI proposals, everything he has suggested in his memorandum would be law today,” says Odinga.

The veteran politician now insists that Ruto obey the Supreme Court ruling that stated a president cannot initiate constitutional amendments.

All proposals for constitutional amendments must come from the people, not the leader.

“These are BBI proposals, he (Ruto) must comply with the same imperatives that he demanded of the BBI process and campaigned against,” Raila adds.

Raila, who is currently in the US attending the US-Africa Leaders Summit as the AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, has promised to elaborate more on the problem surrounding proposed amendments upon his return.

What is Ruto proposing?

On 9 December, in a memorandum to the national assembly and the Senate, Ruto asked parliamentarians to amend Chapter 9 of the Constitution and create an office of the official leader of the opposition, to amend what he said was a constitutional shortfall on the full post-election fate of the minority side.

  • Ruto added that reestablishing the role of an official leader of the opposition will institutionalise governance, strengthen oversight, and deepen democracy in Kenya.
  • He also wanted Parliamentary standing orders to be amended to facilitate the participation of Cabinet Secretaries or Chief Administrative Secretaries in Parliamentary proceedings and to ensure they respond to questions posed by elected Members of Parliament.
  • Ruto also asked Parliament to reform a law on gender equality to ensure more female MPs are nominated.

Defending his proposals, Ruto says the amendments are necessary because the opposition should keep his government accountable.

“I am a great believer in an accountable government. That is why we want our oversight institutions, Parliament and the Opposition to be empowered,” he says.

Referendum or Parliament route?

President Ruto says the proposals should be enacted by Parliament in accordance with article 256 whereby both houses of the National Assembly and Senate can initiate changes that must be supported by at least two-thirds of all elected members.

Doing so would avoid dividing the country politically as was the case following the August polls.

But constitutional experts say the amendments must be subjected to a referendum.

Constitutional lawyer Otiende Amollo, who also serves as MP, says Ruto’s proposals will affect the structure of leadership and composition of Parliament and therefore Kenyans must have a say on it.

“This is a heavy matter that touches on article 1 of the constitution and Kenyans have to determine the changes,” he tells The Africa Report.

According to article 257 of the Kenyan constitution, an amendment that touches on the structure of government should be proposed by a popular initiative, and signed by at least one million registered voters to make it constitutional.

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