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Kenyans headed for referendum as BBI Bill passes county assemblies’ threshold

Kenya will head to a referendum as early as June this year after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Tuesday reached the 24-county constitutional threshold required to secure a plebiscite to amend the Constitution.

And while the Bill will still need to go to the National Assembly and the Senate, the referendum is as good as confirmed since the decision of the bicameral Parliament—whether endorsing or rejecting the document—will still result in a referendum, anyway.

On Tuesday, Kakamega, Narok, Mombasa, Murang’a, Makueni, Kitui, Bungoma, Taita Taveta, Nyeri, Machakos, Tharaka Nithi and Lamu joined the growing list.

With 10 more county assemblies debating the Bill this afternoon, the number is expected to rise even higher.

The 12 regional Houses join Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Busia, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Nairobi, Kisii, West Pokot, Kajiado, Laikipia and Samburu that had already given their nod for the process that seeks to change Kenya’s governance system and increase funds to the counties.

The BBI secretariat is already planning for the next phase of the BBI, chief among them countrywide tours to sell the referendum message.

“From March 1, we are rolling out countrywide tours to take BBI to the people. With all the signs that the assemblies will pass the document by a big number, we will be rolling out grand plans to tell to the people what is in the document and counter any propaganda out there,” National Assembly minority whip Junet Mohamed, who is also the BBI secretariat co-chairman, told the Nation.

The BBI promoters have planned massive rallies to sell the document to Kenyans ahead of a June referendum after getting the nod from the minimum of 24 county assemblies.

“We wish to emphasise that we are within the timelines we had communicated earlier, and we are on course to hold the referendum by June 2021. We are confident of obtaining approvals from at least 35 county assemblies, way above the constitutional threshold of 24 counties,” BBI secretariat co-chairman Dennis Waweru told journalists.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has already said that the BBI Bill will take as short as three weeks, meaning the House will be done with it by end of March.

Since the two Houses will not have an opportunity to alter anything in the document, it is expected that the Senate will take the same amount of time.

Once the two House make their decision, the Speakers will communicate to the President.

On receipt, the President will send his message to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to hold a referendum.

The commission has 90 days within which to hold a referendum on receipt of the President’s message.