Battle lines drawn as team gears to unveil BBI report

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Education CS George Magoha and other guests during the Kibabii University’s fourth graduation ceremony. (Nathan Ochunge, Standard)
The stage has been set for a major political clash between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on the one side, and Deputy President William Ruto on the other, as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force hands over its report on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the BBI Committee chairperson and Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji said they had secured an appointment with State House to hand over the report to the President, a month after they compiled it.

“It is now our privilege to inform the public that an appointment to hand the report to the President has been arranged for Tuesday, November 26,” said Mr Haji.

This comes as the President and his deputy yesterday read from different scripts on BBI.

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Speaking during the fourth graduation ceremony of Kibabii University, President Kenyatta urged politicians to carefully read the document before taking sides.

Divide the country

“My only prayer, especially to the political class, is that this is an opportunity to engage in meaningful and peaceful discourse. We don’t want to divide the country,” said President Kenyatta.

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In a clear indication of his support for the BBI report, the President said there is no denying that the country has issues that ought to be addressed in order to guarantee Kenyans a better governance structure, unity and functional institutions that will be more inclusive.

He wondered why some leaders have been talking ill of the BBI report yet the contents have not been made public.

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“Only a fool will say that there are no issues in this country that require (to be addressed), so let us address them as adults and civilised human beings. Let us appreciate that we may have divergent views, but our object is to make our motherland better, to improve it,” he argued.

But speaking in Nairobi yesterday, Ruto poured scorn on the BBI report and vowed to reject any hidden proposals in the report.

“Kenyans are not fools to just accept conmanship hidden in BBI which they are using as a political tool for 2022,” said the DP during a thanksgiving ceremony for Jubilee candidate in the concluded Kibra by-election McDonald Mariga at Bomas of Kenya.

He added: “You cannot hide violence behind the BBI or handshake. Violence is violence.”

Ruto has accused Raila’s ODM party of using violence during the Kibra by-election.

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The ODM leader has in the past warned those who are opposed to BBI that they risked being pushed aside. He said the country will go to a referendum after release of the report.

Ruto told the ODM leadership to stop riding on BBI to gain political support for the 2022 General Election. He reiterated that Kenyans will reject the report if it seeks to create political offices for leaders.

Notably, the DP has steered clear of making reference to the President’s stand on the BBI report. The rivalry between Ruto and Raila has been renewed by calls for the BBI report and a referendum, but it is a likely confrontation with Mr Kenyatta that is likely to change the political landscape. While the duel has been fought on political podiums, Tuesday’s unveiling of the report will be the tipping point.

Before the Mount Kenya leaders’ meeting in Sagana last Friday, the President had maintained a studious silence and had shied away from voicing his opinion on the BBI report.

While addressing the Sagana meeting, he urged the leaders to read the report once it is released and make an informed decision. And yesterday, the Head of State cautioned politicians to shun empty rhetoric and appreciate divergent views on issues of national importance. “We want want the political class to engage in meaningful and peaceful discourse on the report. I urge politicians to read the report and come out with good things that can make Kenya a better country,” he said.

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Ruto ally and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria warned proponents of BBI to put their act together or face a political battle.

“They know we will not settle for anything shoddy... we will speak our minds if we feel that we do not agree,” said Kuria.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said that they will be keen on contents of the report.

“We will not support blindly, we will make informed decisions on the matter,” he said.

PM post

National Assembly Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali read mischief, claiming that it could create a Prime Minister position for Raila.

“We don’t want anything that will worsen things for the already overburdened Kenyans,” said Mr Washiali.

But Lugari MP Ayub Savula echoed President Kenyatta’s sentiments, saying leaders must be realistic and stop misleading the people.

“BBI report is merely a proposal that is not enshrined in law, leaders must be prepared to probe it thoroughly and stop engaging in sideshows,” said Mr Savula. There were claims that the 14-member BBI committee had handed over the report to another technical group tasked to address contentious issues and enrich it to gain easy acceptance once unveiled.

BBI co-secretary Paul Mwangi dispelled the allegations and insisted that the report had been in their custody since they compiled it a month ago.

An insider who is aware of the last month’s operations but sought anonymity said the document would have “everything for everyone including those who were seemingly opposing it.”

“The team was asked to have a moderate copy that would confound even the naysayers,” said the insider.

The intrigues of the last one month had been informed by the fear that the report would face stiff opposition if it did not speak to the interests of everyone.

“Some of the issues tackled carefully are the structure of government, devolved units and the number of constituencies that were likely to be sensitive to the people,” said the source. 

[Reports by Kenyanitto Oyier, Micah Sali, Diana Kimanzi, John Shilista].

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President Uhuru KenyattaRaila OdingaWilliam RutoBBI Report