A storm has emerged in the Handshake camp over a letter by Senate Majority Whip and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, warning President Uhuru Kenyatta that the BBI referendum is facing defeat in his Mt Kenya stronghold.
In a letter released on Monday, Senator Kang’ata said the BBI law change process is unpopular in Central Kenya, calling on Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga, his handshake partner, to change strategy, failure to which the Bill risks “spectacular” defeat.
In the letter, Kang’ata — an ally of President Kenyatta — said the region is opposed to the expansion of the Executive, the involvement of provincial administration and campaigns by former MPs.
The Senator said the role of chiefs and county administrators and other forceful tactics in BBI mobilisation are being opposed in Mt Kenya region.
“Let us emphasise on the soft power and art of persuasion. In my humble view, the provincial administration in BBI process should be invisible,” Kang’ata said.
But in a rejoinder, Kang’ata’s Minority counterpart Junet Mohamed said the BBI initiative will go on as planned.
“I don’t come from that area [Mt Kenya] so I cannot confirm what Kang’ata is saying but this is the gospel according to Kang’ata. He may have his own opinion but I don’t know when Kang’ata became a pollster in this country,” the Suna East MP said on Tuesday.
“The last time I checked, he was Majority Whip in the Senate but today we are seeing Kang’ata who is a pollster and who can go and commission an opinion poll within the Christmas period,” he added.
Junet said the Murang’a senator is entitled to his opinion but after the signature verification process the BBI secretariat will tell Kenyans the next cause of action.
“We are still going through the process as required by law but Kang’ata is entitled to his opinion and, once in a while, to become a pollster,” Junet said.
Some 10 Central region governors also dismissed Kang’ata’s views on BBI as personal and a misrepresentation of facts. They said the region’s key interests are captured.
The governors led by Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), who doubles up as the Central Region Economic Block chairman, criticized Kang’ata for ignoring official government structures and procedures in his address to the President.
“Such breach of protocol is unacceptable. It raises questions why a senior member of the government leadership in parliament would choose this cheap populist method to address this issue to H.E the President whose office is just a few steps away from parliament, ” the statement read in part.
The governors include Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Martin Wambora (Embu), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri).
The governors argued that it’s too early to start making conclusions on the BBI bill.
“While we acknowledge some of the issues raised, we believe it is very premature to judge the Bill as it has just been published for public participation and intensive discussion at the grassroots. It is at this level that the entire leadership will be expected to educate and sensitize wananchi, with elected leaders expected to play a key roll in these public engagements without fear intimidation or coercion, ” the statement adds.
“All Governors attest that wananchi are waiting for the published bill. To intimate that the Mt Kenya region is opposed to the document at this stage is not only preposterous but also a serious misrepresentation of facts and reality, and we repeat very premature.”
They further accused Kang’ata of failing to consult the region’s leadership before going public with the “survey” results.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the issue with BBI in Mt Kenya is about “who’s willing to do the work on something unpopular.”
“ A good number of politicians from our region will not touch something that they think is unpopular, even if it’s right. It’s too much work turning it around. They are also scared that associating with something unpopular will affect their chances of being re-elected in 2022,” Ngunjiri, who is pro-BBI, said on Tuesday.
Kang’ata is said to be interested in succeeding Governor Mwangi Wa Iria in Murang’a.
“However what Kang’ata has also done in his misguided attempts to ‘clean himself’ is to admit that BBI already has 20% support – or even the 10% some other TangaTanga clowns are claiming, in Mt Kenya region,” Ngunjiri said.