A constitutional referendum, commonly known as the “Building Bridges Initiative” (BBI), was planned to happen in Kenya in June 2021. It was first authorized in February. However, on May 13, 2021, the referendum was halted by a five-judge panel of the High Court. Through a number of unanimous rulings, the panel declared that the process by which this referendum had come about was “unconstitutional, null and void”, and barred the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission from holding the referendum entirely. On May 16, the Attorney General filed a notice of appeal and asked that the ruling’s implementation be suspended. On June 2, the government of Kenya formally challenged the court’s ruling.
The amendments are based on the works of the task force “Building Bridges To Unity Advisory” and steering committee “Implementation Of The Building Bridges To A United Kenya Task Force Report”, which were both established by President Uhuru Kenyatta in early 2020. The upcoming referendum’s name was called the “BBI referendum”.
On February 23, 2021, 30 of the 47 county assemblies approved the BBI referendum. The approval of at least 24 counties is needed to trigger a plebiscite.
The eight proposed amendment bills include among other topics:
- divisive elections
- safety and security
- responsibilities and rights
- ethnic antagonism and competition
- national ethos, inclusivity and shared prosperity.
One of the more notable proposed changes is the altering of the executive structure by reestablishing the Prime Minister of Kenya and two Deputy Prime Ministers.
The bills were set to address 78 different matters and amending 13 out of 18 chapters of the Kenyan Constitution.
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