After launch, Building Bridges Initiative fate will be in MCAs hands

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 00:00 |
BBI taskforce co-chair Yusuf Haji, vice chair Adams Oloo and secretary Paul Mwangi address the media recently. Photo/PD/FILE

The country’s 47 county Assemblies will determine the fate of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) whose report is being presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at State House today, the People Daily has learned. 

Coming weeks after most of the Assemblies rejected the Punguza Mizigo Bill that was sponsored by the Thirdway Alliance, the 2,322 ward reps will have a big decision to make.

A source close to the taskforce told People Daily a new secretariat will be established in the coming days to help formulate the BBI bill which be presented to the Assemblies for debate.

Apparently, the BBI taskforce has opted to take the popular initiative route, one of the avenues of amending the 2010 Constitution, which involves collecting a million signatures from registered voters.

Table bill

The other route is the parliamentary one, in which the government would table a bill in the House, which would require a two-thirds (233 MPs) majority to pass. This route may pose a challenge to the government given the animosity and tension that has characterised debate on the BBI even before its release.

In a move that signifies the importance Uhuru and Raila have attached to the success of the BBI, the Ministry of Interior yesterday invited Members of County Assembly and governors to tomorrow’s event at Bomas of Kenya, where the two leaders are scheduled to launch a National Conversation on the initiative.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, local County Commissioner Ahmed Omar Ahmed, in a memo to the county Speaker, asked him to nominate 20 MCAs to travel to Nairobi for the event.

The letter dated November 25 from Ahmed states: “This is to pass the President’s invitation to the launch of BBI on Wednesday 27, November, 2019 at the Bomas of Kenya at 10am. Please nominate 20 Members of County Assembly to attend the launch. The guests will be expected to be seated by 9am.”

Apart from MCAs and governors, others invited are MPs, senators, religious leaders, members of civil society, envoys and various opinion leaders, among others.

A source in the Office of the President intimated that participants at the National Conversation event are expected to initiate debate on various proposals presented by the BBI team. “After consensus, a bill would be drafted and forwarded to County Assemblies that are expected to either reject or pass it,” said the OP source who is not authorised to speak to the media.

He said they don’t expect the bill to suffer the same fate as the Punguza Mizigo fronted Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance because BBI is a product of public views collected from countrywide tours, that would have been endorsed through consensus at Bomas.

Once the bill and the signatures are ready, the secretariat will forward them to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification and if the electoral body is satisfied, it will present the document to the county Assemblies for debate. 

A national referendum is inevitable, especially considering that the creation of a position prime minister is one of the key recommendations that the BBI report is expected to make, a move that is likely to change the country’s political landscape. 

“We expect that there will a national consensus on the way forward and particularly how to implement the recommendations,” the OP official said. 

Yesterday, the 14-member BBI taskforce chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji was making final preparations to present the report to Uhuru and Raila, an event that has drawn a lot of interest. 

It will be remembered that it is at the steps of Harambee House that the President and Raila unveiled their political deal on March 9 last year, signalling an end to political hostilities that were threatening to tear the country apart. 

The BBI taskforce had a nine-point agenda upon which the report revolves: Finding ways to address ethnic antagonism, corruption, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution and divisive elections.  Others are national security, shared prosperity and responsibility. 

The BBI co-secretary Paul Mwangi says the report is going to bring “far-reaching changes” in the country’s leadership and governance structure.  “Let’s not pre-empt the report... We can discuss that once we have submitted it,” Mwangi responded when reached on phone yesterday.

In a recent interview, BBI member Maj(Rtd) John Seii assured Kenyans of a progressive report that will foster national unity. “It is a good report that will promote national unity and development,” he said.

The BBI  members are: Adams Oloo, Agnes Kavindu, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Florence Omosa, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, Major John Seii, and Bishop Lawi Imathiu. Others are Maison Leshomo, Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Rose Museu, and Archbishop Zaccheaus Okoth.

None of the members was willing to discuss contents of the report yesterday, with Wako only stating: “It is a good report for the good of the country. I am sure that we will not disappoint Kenyans through the report.” The team  went round the country last year collecting views before retreating to compile the report. Yesterday, MPs supporting the BBI were planning to ferry their supporters to the  Bomas of Kenya where the report will be officially launched to the public tomorrow. 

Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama, a supporter of the “Handshake” said he will sponsor his supporters to participate in the historical event.  However, it has also emerged that county commissioners have been tasked with selecting 100 people from their areas who will attend tomorrow’s event. At least 4,700 people are expected at the event. 

Heightened activity

There was heightened activity at the venue; a place which has a lot of historical significance particularly in Kenya’s long search for a constitution and contentious presidential elections.

Last week, Uhuru cautioned politicians against politicising the BBI report, saying they should allow Kenyans time to read the document and make informed decisions, while Deputy President William Ruto dismissed claims by Raila that BBI will bring “a political tsunami”, terming the claims as inconsequential. 

Meanwhile, Aukot said he was waiting to see what BBI has in store before making his opinion public. “We’re going to read it keenly,” said the former presidential contender.

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