President Uhuru, Raila to rally MPs for BBI report unveiling

Friday, October 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Deputy President Ruto, President Uhuru and Raila Odinga during BBI Report launch. Photo/Courtesy

The long journey towards the rollout of the eagerly awaited Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), is expected to kick off tomorrow when President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga rally the support of their parliamentary teams at State House.

Even though the agenda of the meeting has not been disclosed, multiple sources at State House and Parliament told People Daily that it was “obviously” setting in motion, the launch and implementation of the BBI report scheduled to be unveiled sometime next week.

The State House meeting with the parliamentary leadership coincides with a retreat by Cabinet Secretaries at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Training Centre at Manyani  in Taita-Taveta County, starting today till Sunday.

Earlier, plans by State House to combine the two meetings, are said to have been reviewed on Monday evening over fears, it could lead to conflict of interest.

According to sources, Parliament feared a backlash from members of the public for allegedly being compromised by the Executive, that it is supposed to oversight.

Positive attributes

The President is scheduled to address the House leadership meeting tomorrow  from 11am before joining his Cabinet team at the Coast, later in the day.

The President is expected to use the two forums to articulate the positive attributes of the BBI and marshal support for the project.

While leaders of the parliamentary committees are expected to whip their colleagues in Parliament to rally behind the document, the CSs are expected to spread the gospel in their respective ministries and to the public.

Yesterday, National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi hinted that apart from the meeting being used to whip the House leadership to support Uhuru’s legislative agenda, it could also be used to draw the roadmap for the BBI.

“Of course, Parliament is going to play a key role in the entire BBI process and I wouldn’t be surprised if the two leaders have decided to discuss the report with MPs before its launch,” Mbadi told People Daily via telephone.

The meeting to be held at State House Nairobi will be attended by, among others, Speakers of the two Houses, their deputies, majority and minority leaders alongside their assistants, an invitation letter seen by People Daily states.

Others invited are chairpersons of various committees and their deputies from both Houses of Parliament. 

Political positions

“I have received a request from His Excellency the President on the need to meet the leadership of the Senate and all committee chairs and vice-chairs,” Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka says in a letter dated October 14.

This would be the first House leadership meeting to be jointly addressed by Uhuruand his Handshake partner Raila.

It was also not clear, however, whether Deputy President (DP) William Ruto, whose relationship with Uhuru and Raila has been feisty, has been invited for the State House meeting, though his communications team confirmed he will attend the Cabinet retreat.

Yesterday, Ruto appeared to pour cold water on the BBI project, when he claimed that much concentration was being given to the document at the expense of the Big Four agenda.

The DP said the major problem in the country was that more focus was being directed at efforts to create positions for a  few individuals at the expense of economic empowerment of majority of Kenyans.

“Our focus as a country should be about empowering the majority of Kenyans and not to look for political positions,” Ruto said at Sironga grounds, West Mugirango constituency in Nyamira County, during a fundraiser for youth groups.

Speaker Lusaka was non-committal over the agenda of the meeting, insisting they could only know it when the President outlines it tomorrow. 

He noted that most of the Executive agenda is processed through House committees as such various chairpersons and their deputies will be integral in the execution and realisation of the President’s programme.

“At the committee level, it may take a bit long but we wanted this bonding and commitment, that we will be also in the forefront in supporting the Executive in its agenda when it comes to Parliament,” he added, disclosing that both the Senate and the National Assembly leadership will attend tomorrow’s meeting.

Referendum questions

“It will also be the first time the new House leadership, the committee chairs, and their deputies from both Houses will be meeting. It is a good opportunity for us to interact and maybe agree on how we will be working together,” he said.

But sources confided in People Daily that Uhuru and Raila are out to marshal support of their point men in the House ahead of the official launch of the BBI report.

The two Houses are expected to enact guidelines on holding a referendum before they break for the Christmas recess.

The Referendum Bill 2020 is already before the National Assembly awaiting debate and enactment.

Once the report is unveiled, Uhuru  and Raila are said to have drawn up a roadmap that would see the document being subjected to public debate, before being presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification and formulation of a referendum question.

The main political parties backing the Handshake are said to have been tasked to identify county assemblies which they have control of, to prepare them to fast-track the passage of the document once submitted by IEBC to the 47 assemblies.

Both Uhuru and Raila are reportedly racing against time to ensure the country adopts a new Constitution by August next year in readiness for use in the 2022 General Election.

Those privy to the roadmap say the referendum could be held any time between March and May next year if everything goes according to plan.

The plebiscite is billed to change the political landscape in the country and offer an alternative system of governance.

The BBI project is set to address what the President and Raila singled out as some of the country’s most pressing issues in the nine-point agenda contained in the memorandum signed during the March 2018 Handshake.

They include divisive elections that always lead to violence, political inclusion, corruption, independence of the Judiciary, national cohesion and lack of national ethos.

BBI’s final draft seen by People Daily shows that besides creating a powerful Prime Minister position with two deputies, the report enhances the powers of the Senate by giving it authority to approve key appointments such as that of the Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Auditor General and Controller of Budget.

Private property

Senate would assume some of the responsibilities currently assigned to the National Assembly,  which will be  restructured to accommodate the PM, deputies and Leader of Opposition and half of the ministers.

The document changes the name of Cabinet Secretaries to Cabinet Ministers.

Equally, the report recommends changes to the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, and creation of a new office of the Judiciary Ombudsman as the eye of ordinary citizens in the corridors of justice.

But the BBI path is not all smooth, if sentiments by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen are anything to go by.

In what could be a pointer to what lies ahead for the process, Murkomen accused the President of managing the BBI process “like a private property”  despite being a public discourse.

“I can’t remember any other process that involves the people of Kenya that has been managed like private property even more, than official secrets,” Murkomen, a former Senate Majority leader and a close ally of the Ruto’s, said on his Twitter account.

“So, the Cabinet will discuss the BBI final report today and be launched at State House on Saturday. Now let the campaigns begin,” he added.

But Minority Senate Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jr and Deputy Minority Leader Cleophas Malala differed with Murkomen, insisting the President has all the rights to push his legislative agenda through MPs.

“As you know, the Executive cannot work in isolation. As the Legislature, we must work together for the good of the country.

I am looking forward to attending the meeting tomorrow,” Malala stated.

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