On Thursday last week, Kenya’s Supreme Court finally put an end to the troubled history of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the proposed constitutional reform strongly advocated by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Supreme Court judges ruled that certain elements of the law were unlawful. As Chief Justice Martha Koome said, Kenyatta’s role in promoting the law was too excessive and popular participation too limited. Moreover, the president cannot take it upon himself to push a bill forward on behalf of Kenyans.
Another element deemed unconstitutional, concerns the creation of 70 new constituencies – and thus 70 new seats in parliament, seen by many critics as a tool of patronage to reward the most loyal. The Supreme Court ruled that this power lies with the IEBC, the independent commission tasked with ensuring impartiality in the country’s political and judicial processes.
However, the court also ruled that the incumbent president could not be put on trial, unlike some lower courts earlier.
The BBI had become one of the symbols of the turning point in the Kenyan political landscape. Since the famous handshake between Kenyatta and his long-time rival Odinga, the initiative had become the workhorse of both, sealing the new alliance that now sees them on the same side in the upcoming presidential elections – with the introduction of the role of prime minister in the BBI, according to some, the position would be given to Kenyatta himself in case of Odinga’s victory.
The reform was opposed by the other candidate in the August elections, Kenyatta’s deputy prime minister, William Ruto, who many see as the “winner” in this story, given the upcoming elections, and who told the BBC earlier this month that he saw the BBI as a contrived means to get him out of government.