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Kenya

First round of reform plan won by President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga

Strong majority at national and county level for constitutional amendment and more devolution

The Building Bridges Initiative has taken a big step towards becoming reality after the Constitutional Amendment bill that will put it into law was passed by 41 of Kenya's 47 devolved county assemblies, comfortably exceeding the 24 needed for it to pass on to the National Assembly (AC Vol 62 No 1, Keeping up with the Kenyattas). With the combined support of most of the Jubilee party of President Uhuru Kenyatta and almost all of the official opposition parties, led by Raila Odinga's Orange Democrat Movement, it is certain to be adopted.

That makes a referendum inevitable and it has been tentatively scheduled for June, though that could easily slip due to legal challenges currently before the High Court. Less clear is what the question or questions on the ballot paper will look like, with Odinga keen to avoid a simple 'yes/no' question to increase the chances of the BBI proposals surviving. 

In the meantime, Odinga and Kenyatta will be delighted at their co-ordination efforts, co-opting the likes of Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper party chief Kalonzo Musyoka to make the BBI's passage a fait accompli.

The ease and speed at which the counties endorsed BBI is a major setback for William Ruto, Deputy President and leading sceptic of the reform plan. 

Baringo, a stronghold of the Deputy President, is the only county to have rejected the BBI constitutional amendments. However, none of the other central and Rift Valley provinces followed suit (AC Vol 61 No 19, Handshake to face poll test). 

Once West Pokot and Nairobi county assemblies backed the bill, Kikuyu and other Ruto allies in the Mount Kenya region saw the writing on the wall and quietly acquiesced. Ruto's initial strong opposition to the BBI plan evolved into ambivalence. Now, he may have little choice but to accept that it will pass.



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