List of Ruto friendly counties which are in big BBI dilemma

Thursday, January 28th, 2021 12:00 |
Chairman of County Assemblies Forum Ndegwa Wahome during a past event. Photo/PD/File

By Eric Wainaina and Wycliff Kipsang

 Governors and Ward Reps in regions allied to Deputy President William Ruto have been thrust on the horns of a dilemma that could put their careers on the line if they reject the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals.

Members of the country’s 47 county assemblies are expected to start scrutinising proposals of the BBI report after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Tuesday endorsed the supporting signatures and forwarded the document to counties for consideration.

Among other things, BBI proposes 35 per cent increased allocation to counties and the creation of a Ward Development Fund, which the grassroots leaders have been clamouring for since the inception of devolution.

Ruto and key political leaders around him have rejected the national cohesion project spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga, and have activated their supporters to campaign against it.

Counties in focus will be those in the Rift Valley, which is Ruto’s home base. They include Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo, Bomet, Elgeyo Marakwet and Turkana.

Others, such as Makueni and Kwale, where key leaders - including governors and senators - have not only backed the DP’s position but have been rallying their constituents to reject the Bill, will also be watched closely as debate starts.

A section of Ward Reps from the pro-Ruto regions who spoke to People Daily yesterday indicated that their verdict on the BBI would depend on the Deputy President’s direction while others said it was no longer a priority. 

Baringo County Assembly Majority Whip Reuben Chepsongol said their decision “will be based on what the DP says”. 

“Akisema tupitishe, tutapitisha.  Akisema tuangushe, tutaangusha (if he (Ruto) says we ratify it, we will ratify. If he says we reject it, we will reject,” Chepsongol said yesterday. 

That Ward Reps in Ruto’s backyard were walking a tight rope on the matter was demonstrated by County Assemblies Forum secretary general Kipkurui Chepkwony, who said they would convene a meeting of representatives from all county assemblies within 21 days to discuss the proposals in the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2020 that capture spirit of the BBI.   

“We will then make a decision to support or reject the document. So far, majority of the assemblies have not received the document, “ said Chepkwony, who is the Tinderet Ward (Nandi County) MCA, and a close ally of Ruto. 

“There are some clauses that benefit counties such as the increase of cash to devolved units, but we will look for interpreters to fully engage the people on the grassroots to understand the document before making the final decision,” said Chepkwony.

But Uasin Gishu County Assembly Speaker David Kiplagat was categorical that the BBI “was not a priority”.

“There are many pertinent issues affecting the country at the moment apart from the BBI, including addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will debate the document. Politics should, however, not be dragged into this issue,” said Kiplagat.

The major headache, according to observers, is that by voting to reject the BBI, the Ward Reps and governors are certain to expose themselves to criticism that they blocked the flow of more cash to the grassroots which could put their careers on the line even as they try to demonstrate their loyalty to Ruto.

It will also offer ready and potent ammunition for their rivals in the next election.

Political scientist, Obuya Bagaka argued that rejection of the BBI goodies, especially devolution of more cash to counties, “will be a kin to committing political suicide”  by the Ruto supporters as it will put them in direct confrontation with  their constituents.

By opposing the drive to have more cash sent to counties to spur development which the electorate has been demanding, Dr Bagaka said politicians, particularly governors serving their first terms and Ward Reps, will be placing their political careers on the line.

“No right-thinking governor will oppose BBI unless he or she has no interest in being re-elected and probably a second term governor who is hoping that he will get a position in Ruto’s government in case he is elected as president in 2022.

Though the matter will be going to the county assemblies, the mobilisation will be taken directly to the people so that the MCAs will be facing the electorate,”  Dr Bagaka told People Daily yesterday.

He added: “Those who will oppose allocation of more funds will meet voters in 2022.

Remember, there are also MCA aspirants who definitely will be agitating for more cash and ward funds. 

It will be difficult for the DP to marshal 15 county assemblies to reject the Bill.”

Governors Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana, Stephen Sang’ (Nandi) and Turkana’s Josephat Nanok, who are strong Ruto allies, have expressed reservations with the document and it will be interesting to see if they will rally their troops to reject it when it is subjected to a vote in their home county assemblies.

Also in the group are senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Nandi’s Samson Cherargey and Christopher Langat of Bomet.

The BBI is proposing an increase on county allocations from 15 per cent to 35 per cent, a major incentive for counties.

Five per cent of the amount will be divided equally among wards in the respective counties to be presided over by Ward Reps.

The BBI proponents require the support of at least 24 counties to ratify the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

But Ward Representatives from regions allied to President Kenyatta and Raila expressed optimism that the BBI Bill will be ratified.

Kiambu County Assembly Majority Leader Gideon Gachara asked MCAs not be blinded or swayed by political intrigues surrounding the BBI process, saying devolution stands to gain a lot if the Bill passes.

“We (Kiambu) are waiting for it so that we can pass it. It has proposed a Ward Development Fund, which we have been pushing for and though we wanted more, we appreciate what has been proposed. Devolution funds have been increased by 20 per cent. 

“Why would you reject such a thing?  Kiambu will get six additional constituencies and that will come with financial gain in the form of CDF allocation, why would one reject such a proposal?” posed the Ndeiya MCA.

According to Bagaka, the additional revenue allocation to counties and creation of Ward Development Fund was a calculated bait for governors and MCAs who might find themselves in an awkward position opposing benefits their constituents have been fighting for.

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