- Mr Ndwiga said that if need be, the referendum should happen alongside the 2022 General Election so that it does not appear to benefit or sideline some political players.
- Allies of Mr Odinga said they will work together to ensure Kenyans get the opportunity to give their views on the proposed constitutional amendments.
Deputy President William Ruto was on Saturday categorical that there was no need for a referendum to change the laws even as his allies from central Kenya met to plot a parliamentary takeover of the process.
At the same time, allies of President Kenyatta and ODM leader and BBI co-sponsor Raila Odinga were sharpening their daggers, vowing that they would go for nothing less than a referendum.
The two hardline stances signal a showdown that will likely scuttle the nascent Building Bridges Initiative, whose drafters had hoped for bipartisan support.
“If there is a part which requires a referendum and I haven't seen it, then let them explain to us. Their goal from the word go was not the report but looking for a way to divide Kenyans to advance their politics,” the DP said at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Kangundo, Machakos County.
An Embu meeting, which brought together about 40 MPs from 10 Gema-leaning counties, resolved that they were opposed to a plebiscite, arguing that Parliament was competent to handle it.
The event was moderated by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who is keen to inherit the Mt Kenya political base from President Kenyatta, and Senator Njeru Ndwiga, as former President Mwai Kibaki’s private secretary Ngari Gituku played the role of a rapporteur.
Mr Gituku’s presence is quite telling for a man who has in the past remained apolitical.
It could either reflect Mr Kibaki’s leaning or that he himself is interested in gunning for an elective seat.
Speaking at Mountain Breeze Hotel after a two-day retreat, the MPs said Parliament had already formed various subcommittees to steer implementation of the BBI.
“Parliament is the sole body constitutionally mandated to pass laws. We strongly hold that any constitutional amendment in regard to the BBI should be parliamentary led,” they said in a statement read by Mr Ndwiga.
Mr Ndwiga said that if need be, the referendum should happen alongside the 2022 General Election so that it does not appear to benefit or sideline some political players.
Participants were from Murang’a, Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Tharaka-Nithi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Laikipia, and Nyandarua counties.
With President Kenyatta striking a cautious approach during the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday, the group — by cleverly coming out to state its opposition to a referendum — is seeking to force Mr Kenyatta to reveal his hand.
Some of the MPs who attended the meeting were Kareke Mbiuki (Maara), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) John Muchiri (Manyatta) Munene Wambugu (Kirinyaga Central) and Tharaka-Nithi Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha.
On the other side, allies of Mr Odinga accused DP Ruto of setting a trap to either shoot down or dilute the BBI report through Parliament.
They said the push by DP Ruto’s supporters to make constitutional changes through Parliament is “mischievous” and a plot to derail what a majority of Kenyans are yearning for.
Speaking in Bondo on Saturday, the leaders, who vowed to craft a new working alliance, said they will work together to ensure Kenyans get the opportunity to give their views on the proposed constitutional amendments.
Drawn from Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap, the leaders reiterated that Kenyans should not be sidelined in the process.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, who presided over the fundraiser in aid of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Secondary School, vowed to support the proposal to amend the Constitution while urging Kenyans to be wary of people who want to create confusion.
“It is unfortunate that the person who is expected to help President Kenyatta to champion for change and ensure a better Kenya is the one who is derailing the process,” Mr Atwoli said.
Siaya Senator James Orengo, a close ally of Mr Odinga, cautioned that the move will amount to subversion of the rights of Kenyans, who he said are entitled to directly make decisions on critical issues touching on their lives.
“It is suspicious that the people who were against proposals to change the Constitution have suddenly changed their mind and are now coming up with prescriptions on how to amend the supreme law,” he said.