NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23- Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has lauded the more than 30 counties which had approved the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill by Tuesday, declaring the road to the referendum is now clear.
37 counties voted overwhelmingly for the Bill, including all the 10 in Mt Kenya and 3 in lower Eastern. Only Baringo was listed on the No side by Tuesday having voted to reject the Bill borne out the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila in March 2018 when they ended their political hostilities.
“With the dramatic and strong conclusion of the exercise today, we are extremely close to giving our people the reforms they need to create a united, inclusive, stable and prosperous nation that also deals decisively with the crime of corruption,” Odinga said in a statement that had undertones of a veiled attack on Deputy President William Ruto and leaders loyal to him who are critical of the initiative.
Odinga who has been on the frontline with President Kenyatta in drumming up support for the Bill hailed the MCAs saying their resounding support will ensure prosperity and equitable sharing of the same.
“County assemblies have been able to push back a year-long campaign of lies, misinformation and undue influence on a document whose centerpiece is ensuring prosperity and equitable sharing of the same,” Odinga said in a statement directed at Ruto.
And despite earlier warnings by a section of leaders that BBI was unpopular in the Mount Kenya region, all the ten counties from the area passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 in unanimous votes Tuesday.
They include Laikipia, Nyeri, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Tharaka Nithi, Nakuru, Kirinyaga, Meru, Embu and Kiambu.
“People have seen Mt Kenya voting as one block, Kirinyaga voted unanimously and other counties have also voted the same,” said Anne Waiguru, the Governor of Kirinyaga County.
Other county assemblies which have so far passed include Makueni, Kitui, Narok, Kakamega, Mombasa, Bungoma, Nyamira and Taita Taveta.
Others are Machakos, Lamu, Garissa, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Busia, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Kajiado, Kisii, Nairobi, Vihiga and Samburu.
Odinga said he is now looking forward to working with Members of Parliament where the Bill is now headed before the electoral commission can prepare for a referendum.
The Bill which proposes the expansion of the National Executive by adding the Office of the Prime Minister and two deputies was borne out of a March 2018 truce between Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga which ended hostilities sparked by the latter’s rejection of the 2017 presidential election outcome.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata had warned that the Bill was unpopular in Mt Kenya, in a letter to President Kenyatta.
He said the finding was based on his own personal observations during the Christmas and the New Year holidays.
Kang’ata was removed as the Senate Majority Chief Whip on February 9, in what was linked to observation and has since joined the political wing of Deputy President Willia Ruto.
Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju said Kangata had been leaking party secrets and could not be trusted any more.
Mount Kenya Region is largely divided in Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga factions who are affiliated to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deputy President.
Ruto and his allies have been opposing some of the BBI proposals insisting that it should be subjected to a multiple choice referendum; a recommendation that has been rejected by proponents of the BBI including Odinga.
Kanga’ata’s letter sparked mixed reactions from leaders which prompted President Kenyatta to convene a meeting in late January with over 5000 leaders including Governors, MPs and MCAs from the area to drum up support for the Bill.