The Supreme Court’s judgement annulling the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment process has thrust legal reforms to the centre of the General Election agenda, with leading presidential contestants hoping to ride on the outcome.
Azimio presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza’s William Ruto’s teams have been claiming victory, citing the Supreme Court decision to re-energise their bases.
There were street celebrations in Eldoret on Thursday as the Supreme Court decision was seen as a victory for Deputy President Ruto over Mr Odinga.
The celebrations were led by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, who is a member of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a party associated with Dr Ruto.
For Mr Ruto’s supporters, the judgement marked the defeat of a “state project” they opposed from the very beginning.
But speaking at a rally in Murang’a yesterday, Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, whose party is a member of the Azimio-One Kenya alliance, said the ruling was favourable to the amendment proponents, “as it paves the way for a review of the Constitution”.
“I have heard my friends (Ford Kenya leader Moses) Wetang’ula and (Amani National Congress’ Musalia) Mudavadi say President Uhuru Kenyatta was left with egg on his face. It is nothing of the sort,” Mr Musyoka said.
City lawyer Tom Ojienda, who is eyeing the Kisumu Senate seat on Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket, said the judgment offers an opportunity for substantive legal and constitutional reforms.
“It provides a chance for BBI proponents of BBI to come up with an even better document. The Supreme Court has only given us half time. The second half is coming,” Prof Ojienda said.
The seven-judge bench ruled some items in favour of the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 namely the basic structure doctrine, immunity of the president from prosecution, public participation, and composition and quorum of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
However, the judges declared illegal the proposed amendments by the BBI. The court said President Kenyatta’s involvement in the process was unconstitutional and that the effort to create an additional 70 constituencies was unlawful.
With the General Election only four months away, the judgment has offered both camps room to mobilise their bases by portraying their sides victorious.
At the same time, it has put the drive to change the Constitution back into the campaign messaging and rhetoric.
Azimio leaders are telling their supporters that the push to amend the Constitution is on course and will be reopened if they win the presidential election.
“For Azimio, the framing in the campaigns will be that this is just a postponement of the issue, though in reality the dust has settled on BBI except that the judgment brought some clarifications,” University of Nairobi political scientist, Richard Bosire, said yesterday.
According to Dr Bosire, though tying BBI to the economic hardships being experienced in the country would be appealing to Dr Ruto’s camp, it may not change the minds of many Kenyans politically.
“Thursday’s outcome and the framing by different political groupings may not add much to either side. Politically, it doesn’t make a difference though it will be a constant topic on the campaign podium,” Dr Bosire said.