A Kenyan appeals court has ruled that president Uhuru Kenyatta cannot implement broad constitutional changes, limiting his ability to prevent his estranged deputy from succeeding him next year.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) would have been the biggest change to governance since the new constitution of 2010.
The court upheld a High Court ruling from May declaring the proposed reforms illegal on the grounds that Kenyatta acted unconstitutionally.
According to one of the appellate judges, in ruling against the government’s appeal, “The days of (an) unaccountable presidency are long gone.”
In anticipation of the upcoming general election in August 2022, the BBI has served as a lightning rod for politicians’ rhetoric. Deputy President William Ruto and Kenyatta have fallen out and their supporters disagree about the proposals.
“I don’t see the need to change the constitution,” said Mwangi Kiunjuri, a Ruto ally sacked by Kenyatta early last year.
Kenyatta stated that the constitutional overhaul would promote power-sharing between competing ethnic groups and would not deprive anyone of the presidency.
Among the proposed changes were the creation of 70 new constituencies and the establishment of several powerful posts: a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and an official leader of parliamentary opposition.
Kenyatta’s Kikuyu and Ruto’s Kalenjin ethnic community teamed up in the last two elections to defeat former Prime Minister Raila Odinga from the Luo, another large ethnic group.
According to anti-graft campaigner John Githongo, the amendments aim to muzzle Ruto’s ambitions to succeed Kenyatta by making it easier to create an alliance against him.
A number of Kikuyu tribes in the central region, which Kenyatta inherited from the Kikuyu, have embraced Ruto’s campaign.
Beatrice Kagure, a college student in Nyeri, said, “We don’t want BBI … This is about politicians seeking power.”
Kenyatta has proposed that county governments receive 35% of the budget as part of his reform drive to increase the amount of resources allocated to the grassroots. There have been claims that the government has struggled to disburse the current 15% counties budgetary allocation on time.