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Kenya

Appeal Court will pronounce this week on Odinga and Kenyatta's referendum and basic law plan

The ruling will shape the game plan for next year's presidential election and Deputy President Ruto gears up his own campaign

President Uhuru Kenyatta and 'handshake' partner Raila Odinga have paved the way for their constitutional reform package to speed through parliament, with a referendum to be held within two months, should the Court of Appeal agree this week that it can be salvaged.

Several months of legal argument have followed the High Court's decision in May to strike down the Building Bridges Initiative, largely on the grounds that the president does not have the unilateral right to instigate constitutional reform (AC Vol 62 No 11, Picking up the pieces). The Court of Appeal is due to rule on the fate of BBI on 20 August.

In the meantime, the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs committee has prepared a revised bill which, though largely identical to the initial legislation, may speed up the organisation of a referendum by November.

It tries to limit the scope for BBI's opponents to take another appeal to the courts. Yet it keeps the plans to scrap several county administrations and create new seats in the National Assembly. Both  those provisions were struck down by the High Court ruling in May.

The bill has also been sent to eleven counties for a rapid citizens' consultation process. For now, Kenyatta and Odinga are not willing to concede ground on either the substance or the timing of the referendum – despite growing calls from civil society and religious leaders to delay a plebiscite (AC Vol 61 No 23, A divisive plan for unity).

The fate of BBI is still tied to the politics of who will succeed Kenyatta in the presidency. Odinga's lieutenants have indicated that he will declare his intention to run for the presidency later this month.

A flurry of recent meetings by the two suggest that Kenyatta will endorse his former rival to be his successor. That will clarify the two men's stern opposition to the ambitions of Deputy President William Ruto who has been in full campaign mode this year.

The presidential elections have been confirmed for 9 August next year by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.



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