Building Bridges Initiative proposes Prime Minister position

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 00:00 |
Opposition parties leaders Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka at State House, Nairobi during the release of the BBI report, yesterday. Photo/PSCU

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Kenyans could see drastic changes in the governance structure with the return of the position of prime minister to enhance inclusion and reduce competition associated with the president’s position.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce has also proposed the continuation of the current structure of an executive president serving for a maximum of two terms, but recommended the creation of a strong leader of opposition to keep the government in check.

The team has also proposed the retention of the current number of Members of Parliament and the country’s 47 counties.

The much-awaited report, which was handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, at State House, Nairobi, yesterday, also proposes a raft of measures to strengthen devolution, fight corruption and tackle widespread poverty.

Addressing the country’s highest political office, the team proposes that Kenya retains the current powers of the President as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed , who is directly elected by the people alongside a deputy president.

 Radical proposal

But probably the most radical proposal is the return of the office of the Prime Minister, which will supervise execution of government functions, a move that could significantly alter the country’s power structure and unsettle politicians gravitating towards Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

The Deputy President, who attended yesterday’s State House function, is strongly opposed to any proposals creating more political positions at the top. He sees this as an attempt to accommodate Opposition leader Raila, who he perceives as his main opponent in the 2022 presidential campaign.

A referendum seems inevitable as some of the proposals, including those touching on the structure of the Executive, Legislature and Devolution, will require a constitutional amendment. 

According to the BBI proposal, th­e PM shall be the leader of the party with a majority in Parliament.

“Within a set number of days following the summoning of Parliament after an election, the President shall appoint a Prime Minister, an elected Member of the National Assembly from a political party having a majority of Members in the National Assembly or, if no political party has a majority, one who appears to have the support of a majority of MPs,” says the taskforce report.

“The Prime Minister shall have supervision and execution of the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government. The Prime Minister shall be the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly,” the report adds.

The President would be required to appoint the Cabinet in consultation with the premier. However, the premier, who shall be an MP, shall not be given an additional salary.

In another shift from the current executive structure, the President will be required to choose members of the Cabinet from in and outside Parliament. They will be called Cabinet Ministers and not Cabinet Secretaries as is currently the case.

The BBI taskforce was set up following the March 9, 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila following a bitter fight in the 2017 presidential election.  The report is expected to be the subject of intense political debate, mainly revolving around the 2022 elections.

Yesterday, the President announced through his Twitter handle that they had received the proposals from the team co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and Busia Senator Amos Wako. The government will today hold a public event at the Bomas of Kenya where the President is set to make the report public.

Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi, who attended the event, told People Daily the President called for sobriety during the debate on the document.

“We were taken through the process by Amb Martin Kimani (one of the BBI joint secretaries). The President advised that people should accommodate each other during the coming debate. Nobody should force his position on others,” Mudavadi said.

The BBI team was tasked to address a nine-point agenda of what the two leaders consider the county’s most pressing issues.

They singled out inclusivity, corruption, ethnic division, polarising elections, security and lack of national ethos. The others are devolution, responsibility and rights as well as shared prosperity.

It is hoped that the release of the report will accord Kenyans an opportunity to debate some of the issues that have been threatening to tear the country’s fabric apart.

While releasing its findings, the task force stressed that BBI did not replace any legal or constitutional body. 

“Its recommendations are just that: recommendations based on listening to Kenyan citizens and experts,” the team notes, adding that the proposals would be subjected to more public conversations by Kenyans. 

Leadership wrangles

There is also a suggestion that principal secretaries  not be subjected to parliamentary approval to prevent politicisation of the civil service.  To address the ugly leadership wrangles in counties, it is proposed that in case a vacancy occurs in the office of deputy governor and the governor fails to appoint, the Speaker of the County Assembly, with the approval of the Assembly, shall nominate an individual for the post.  

 This could have been triggered by calls to cure the Nairobi case in which Governor Mike Sonko has been operating without a deputy since the exit of Polycarp Igathe in 2018. On elections, the running mate of every candidate for the position of Governor should be of the opposite gender.

 However, the proposal could face resistance from a group of politicians allied to the Deputy President who have vowed to reject the report if it proposes creation of more seats.

The group otherwise called Tanga Tanga has sent strong indications that it could oppose the proposals which they perceive as calculated to frustrate the DP’s ambitions to succeed the President.

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