Uhuru, Raila meet county leaders to vouch for BBI

Monday, November 9th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga arrive for a BBI meeting with Parliamentarians from both the Senate and the National Assembly in Naivasha last week. Photo/PD/File

Eric Wainaina and Mwiti Kirera

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to use their meeting with governors and MCAs today to rally them behind the Building Bridges Initiative (BB) report.

The two principals will address officials of the Council of Governors (CoG) and those of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) during a two-day retreat at Enashipai Spa and Lodge starting this morning.

The two leaders have maintained the BBI process, which will result in a referendum scheduled for June next year, must proceed. 

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who is hosting the meeting, said the governors and the MCAs will be taken through the report by constitutional experts with a view to building consensus.

“All governors converge in Naivasha today (Monday) so that we can get a deeper insight into this document ahead of the planned referendum,” Kinyanjui told People Daily yesterday.

He said the leaders will use the opportunity to suggest certain amendments to the report “to make it even better”.

Invitation letters

The BBI secretariat dispatched invitation letters to the groups on Thursday last week, just four days after President Kenyatta and Raila met MPs who resolved to back the document in its current form.

“Having listened to some of the issues that have emerged and been raised by various interested groups, the two principals (Uhuru and Raila) have decided to call a round table meeting with them,” read a letter sent to the Council of Governors and dated November 5. 

On the same day, Raila met a section of governors led by the CoG chair Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya in Nairobi to discuss the document.

“Devolution improved service delivery across our nation. It should be strengthened. I engaged governors on the BBI process and enjoyed listening to their perspective on the way forward,” Raila announced after the meeting.

Today’s meeting comes just one week after the two “handshake” partners held a similar meeting at Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha with lawmakers from the two Houses of parliament where they ruled out any changes to the report and any negotiations but the BBI secretariat has since stated that it would consider fresh views.

Uhuru argued that the document had been subjected to public participation during which the views of Kenyans were captured and therefore, altering the report would amount to overturning the people’s views.

The meeting also comes at a time controversy is raging after Maj (Rtd) John Seii, who was part of the BBI task force, claimed the report was doctored to include recommendations that had never been canvassed before his team.

Final report

Seii said though the issue of equal representation was discussed during the Meru BBI rally in February, they had not recommended an increase of the constituencies as suggested in the final report.

“When we were collecting the views, Kenyans said we should not interfere with the wards and counties.

But they never talked of increasing the constituencies and there were issues about the ballooning wage bill and so we could not have recommended such an increase.

When we found that it (recommendation) was in the final report, we were shocked. It was like a bombshell,” Seii said on Thursday.   

He also claimed his team was hurriedly called to append their signatures on the final report without even getting time to go through it.

The BBI’s joint Secretary Paul Mwangi has, however, dismissed Seii’s claim accusing him of lying to the public.

More than two times during BBI retreats, Mwangi said, Seii was caught secretly photographing presentations on the projector screen.

When asked, Mwangi said Seii claimed he had poor eyesight and wanted to take a closer look, adding that members of the team beseeched him to stop.

“All the issues Major Seii is trying to disown are in the first report. The PM (position) is in the first report.

He doesn’t deny signing both reports. Is it possible that he, a senior military man, signed without reading, really?” he posed.

Governors have expressed concerns with what they say is the weakening of the Senate to help protect devolution.

In a move that could rub womenfolk the wrong way, the governors want the mandatory requirement of a gubernatorial candidate to pick a running mate of the opposite gender removed, saying there are various factors that must be considered before a deputy governor is picked.

The considerations, according to the governors, include inclusivity in areas that are dominated by more than one community.

They also want the health services fully devolved to the counties.

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