In a scathing ruling, five High Court judges in Kenya have blocked a pesident-backed plan to make fundamental changes to the country’s constitution.
The judgment is arguably the most significant ruling by Kenyan courts since President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win was nullified in 2017.
The judges said the constitution amendment bill, popularly referred to as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), was irregular, illegal, and unconstitutional.
The court stopped the constitutional amendment process, which was initiated by
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political nemesis Raila Odinga, dubbed Building Bridges Initiative [BBI], which
would have seen drastic amendments to the supreme law.
The process, which was initiated in 2018, had given birth to BBI Bill, which Kenyans were expected to vote for in a
referendum. The bill, promoters say, is supposed to unite all Kenyans by xing some of the thorny traditional issues,
among others, lack of inclusivity in government.
“Considering the illegitimate purpose for which the BBI steering committee was conceived,
nothing legitimate can come out of that outfit,” the court ruled. “Whatever it may want to
consider as its achievement, including the Constitution Amendment Bill, is of no legal
But a ve-bench on Thursday found President Uhuru Kenyatta had acted illegally by driving the initiative. The court
made the lengthy ruling on Thursday, which is, however, subject to the appeal at the Appeals Court.
The Bill, which the bicameral legislature has since approved, proposed reintroducing the role of prime minister and
two deputies. Its other provisions included allocating a more signicant share of the budget to the 47 counties and
the appointment of an ombudsman to oversee the judiciary.
The entire process promoted by the BBI was “unconstitutional, null and void,” the ve-member bench said in a
judgment handed down on Thursday. It also declared the steering committee appointed by Kenyatta to implement
the changes “an unlawful entity” and that the president violated the constitution.
The judgment is a signicant setback for Kenyatta, who is due to step down in August next year and is unlikely to
have sufcient time to revive the initiative should an appeal fail. The ruling could bolster Deputy President William
Ruto’s political fortunes — his supporters argued that the BBI aimed to derail his efforts to secure the top job, and he
refused to support it openly.
Instituting the initiative will entail changes to the constitution that can only be effected after an informed and
participatory process that wasn’t followed, the court said. It found that the BBI was the president’s initiative rather
than the people’s and shouldn’t have promoted the constitutional amendments.
“Considering the illegitimate purpose for which the BBI steering committee was conceived, nothing legitimate can
come out of that outfit,” the court ruled. “Whatever it may want to consider as its achievement, including the
Constitution Amendment Bill is of no legal consequence.”
The BBI’s critics argued that it would undermine the judiciary’s independence, sideline sparsely populated areas, and
increase the size of the government at a time when the treasury is struggling to reduce costs and rein in the budget
The court’s ruling may be challenged in the Court of Appeal. Kenya’s solicitor-general, Kennedy Ogeto, told the court
the government intends to appeal. The appeal might be led as early as Monday; next week, this Friday is Eidul-Fitr in Kenya.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are yet to comment on the latest development
publicly. The two were optimistic that the process, which saw over 3 million Kenyans approve it, would x some of
the country’s ills, especially during the electioneering period.
Despite getting the people’s approval, the courts also said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission,
which verified the signatures, was not properly constituted. Should the ruling stand, it will have a raft of
repercussions among them recalling of results of all by-elections that have taken place since 2017.
Sources : SOMALI INFO, BBC, GAROWEONLINE, and agencies.