carrot and stick?

Kenya: Bring back BBI proposals to change the constitution, Raila tells Ruto

By Victor Abuso

Posted on January 10, 2023 11:23

 © Kenya’s President William Ruto (photo: @WilliamsRuto)
Kenya’s President William Ruto (photo: @WilliamsRuto)

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga wants President William Ruto to re-introduce the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals to change the constitution, and do away with those that he brought before Parliament.

Raila says any plans to change the constitution must start with the people who should be consulted as was the case for the BBI proposals that the Supreme Court dismissed last year. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta was accused of initiating changes that were deemed unconstitutional.

Raila is adamant that the people should be at the centre stage of any constitutional change. “Ruto must engage the people of Kenya in any major constitutional amendment. If he wants, we can talk,” the former prime minister says.

Furthermore, Raila says the Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya Coalition will only support proposals stemming from the rejected BBI on the formation of the office of the opposition leader and the re-introduction of a prime minister. He says these propositions have already been debated extensively by the people of Kenya.

“If he [Ruto] wants to have the position of opposition leader and prime minister, it is in the Building Bridges Initiative [BBI] document,” said Raila.

Ruto’s response

However, President Ruto, who rejected the BBI proposals, has defended his proposed amendments to Parliament, saying he will not bring back the Raila-Kenyatta initiative. According to him, the duo had intended to create a powerful political position for individuals and cheat Kenyans.

“BBI was a ‘criminal’ undertaking. I’m not bringing it back,” Ruto said during a media interview in Nairobi last week.

Ruto also says his proposed law reforms seek to boost the accountability of his government.

“We need an office of the opposition leader as an institution. I’m not seeking an office for [Raila] Odinga,” he says.

BBI vs Ruto’s latest proposals

The BBI had proposed to create the position of a powerful leader of the official opposition. This role would normally go to the runner-up in the presidential election.

Ruto’s proposals, however, do not clearly state who the opposition leader will be, but he/she will come from the party or coalition that has not formed the government after an election.

[Raila] Odinga wants [the] BBI proposals to be back on the political stage [so] Ruto will face more political pressure

The BBI had also supported the introduction of the positions of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. Ruto has instead created the position of a chief cabinet secretary, whose role is to supervise government projects.

The position is currently held by Musalia Mudavadi, leader of the Amani National Congress (ANC) party, who supported Ruto during the presidential campaigns.

Ruto under pressure

Bobby Mkangi, a constitutional lawyer, tells The Africa Report that he is not surprised by Raila’s demands. He says they are meant to push Ruto into a political consensus on how to amend the constitution.

“[Raila] Odinga wants [the] BBI proposals to be back on the political stage [so] Ruto will face more political pressure.”

If Ruto is not careful, he might not deliver [on] what he promised to Kenyans ahead of the next election [in 2027]

He adds if Ruto is not careful, Raila will capitalise on the lack of constitutional changes to derail and weaken the government’s development agenda.

“If Ruto is not careful, he might not deliver [on] what he promised to Kenyans ahead of the next election [in 2027].”

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