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Raila: BBI report is not my ticket to State House

Sunday December 08 2019
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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga demonstrate their cordial relationship during the annual prayer breakfast in Nairobi on May 31, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ALLAN OLINGO

Opposition leader Raila Odinga says he does not intend to use the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to clear his way to power in 2022, but rather to promote a Kenyan identity, even as he hints t a referendum on the recently launched report.

Mr Odinga, who enjoys cordial relations with President Uhuru Kenyatta, says some of the clauses in the report would require amendment of parts of the Constitution.

“We need to understand that power is vested in the people. What Parliament can change can also be done directly by a majority of the people. In the BBI report, there are proposals altering the structure of the Constitution and once a consensus has been reached on the proposals, then it will require a referendum,” Mr Odinga said.

In his first interview following the launch of the BBI report, Mr Odinga told the Nation on the sidelines of the Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali, Rwanda, that he and President Uhuru Kenyatta are determined to create one nation out of the more than 40 tribes, and not to seek power through the initiative, as has been claimed by some politicians.

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Mr Odinga, however, admitted that the report had created anxiety both in the political circles and in the economy, but said he and Mr Kenyatta were keen to see the handshake initiative succeeds for the country’s good.

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“We can see anxiety on BBI and what it contains, with some individuals now trying to tie their 2022 election ambitions to this process. That is not what we want.

I also need to be clear, the BBI is not intended to propel myself or President Kenyatta to power in 2022,” Mr Odinga said, adding that the process is meant for posterity to ensure a sane political, economic and development environment for the country.

“We are not power-hungry and are not trying to support one another’s political ambitions and vision in 2022. This initiative isn’t made for that. We didn’t have any talks on 2022 when we started this. It is for the betterment of Kenya’s future,” Mr Odinga said.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga launched the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya a fortnight ago.

The report is now expected to be subjected to public participation in the next 60 days as the committee tasked with its implementation works towards a final document.

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The initiative, mooted following the March 2018 pact between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, promises to create a new political dispensation as campaigns to publicise it gather steam.

The former premier said that as people discuss the proposals, the cost of the referendum should form part of this discussion to avoid burdening Kenyans with an expensive process.

“Given that this will be a simple yes or no question kind of an election, the cost should not be more than Sh2 billion. It should not become expensive and a conduit for misuse of public funds,” he said.

Mr Odinga was cautious to discuss the proposal of a weak prime minister position as contained in the BBI report, saying it was up to Kenyans to decide the role the premier would play.

“The BBI report is a recommendation document. So together with President Kenyatta, we expect public discussion on these key proposals. Once we get the final document, then we can discuss,” Mr Odinga said.

The former premier said the top priority for him and President Kenyatta was to cure the anxiety around the Kenyan election cycle that always slows down the country’s economic growth.

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