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Mr Elias Too gives his views during a BBI regional meeting at Uasin Gishu County Social Hall in Eldoret last week. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

The team will also confront some contentious proposals made during regional BBI meetings, but which proved divisive in the past.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) steering committee will have to navigate through a rough terrain as it considers some of the issues that have divided the country in the past, even as it seeks to give recommendations with a national appeal.

The team, led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, will be looking to present a document that not only unifies the country, but also addresses what has been ailing it for decades now. 

The team will also confront some contentious proposals made during regional BBI meetings, but which proved divisive in the past.

The regional meetings presented a platform for leaders to reintroduce proposals that have kept recurring but which, for the sake of the unity of the country, have been left out.

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Even though BBI has been touted as the avenue through which issues that have divided Kenyans will be addressed, some of the utterances during the regional meetings have only served to divide the country more, especially those viewed as opening old wounds.

Going by some of the proposals made at the meetings, where leaders gave memoranda to the BBI team, it will be interesting to see how the steering committee will handle some of the most contentious issues raised without spoiling the mood of the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said while the BBI process is yet to attract any rebellion, it is likely to start attracting opposition after the committee has condensed the views collected from Kenyans. Some of these views are likely to be formulated into bills for legislation or lead to a referendum to amend the Constitution.

“It is too early for these divisions to emerge. This may begin to happen once we have the draft after considering proposals and views presented to the team by leaders from various regions. That is when the process will attract rebellion. I am not sure how the committee members will navigate the contentious issues presented to them,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

Leaders from the Coast region re-ignited their call for creation of regional governments popularly knows as majimbo. It is a topic that has sharply divided Kenyans during the clamour for reforms that led to the 2010 Constitution. It was one of the points of departure between the “banana” and “orange” teams in the run-up to the 2005 referendum that the government lost.

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While the orange team led by Raila pushed for majimbo, arguing they would give each region an opportunity and resources to take care of their interests, retired President Mwai Kibaki’s 'banana' team opposed the proposal, saying it would divide the country.

Although the proposal failed to find space in the 2010 Constitution, which created the 47 county governments instead, the Coast leaders have re-started its push to have the regional governments. It was one of their key resolutions presented during a BBI meeting in Mombasa.

Another key proposal has to do with management of land. The leaders want the government to buy the land of absentee landlords and use it to resettle squatters. But some communities have opposed this proposal and called for respect of private properties and the right to own property in any part of the country.

There has been unease about land use police which has also been a contentious issue in Rift Valley. It is one of the triggers of post-election violence following the bungled presidential elections in 2007. It caused friction during a regional BBI meeting in Narok, as area Senator Ledama ole Kina was condemned for what was seen as incitement.

He was even arrested over his sentiments after claiming non-locals had encroached on land belonging to local communities and even demanded that the said land be reverted to the Maasai community.

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Another contentious issue Haji’s team will be grappling with is a call from Mt Kenya leaders for “one man-one vote-one shilling”, where the population is to be used as the main factor in distributing resources.

The leaders have termed this proposal the “irreducible minimum” for them to support the BBI. They claim the region has suffered due to alleged under-representation and inequitable distribution of resources even with its huge population.

It is not the first time the issue is coming up. Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina unsuccessfully pushed for its consideration during the last process of delimitation of constituencies. He even went to court after the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission, chaired by former MP Andrew Ligale, failed to grant the wish.

In 2014, Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi pushed for the principle to be used in allocation of money to counties, but was also unsuccessful. He claimed the cash Central Kenya counties were receiving was not commensurate with their huge populations.

Yesterday, Mr Wamatangi said: “We have to fight for our right, which has been violated for years. Central Kenya has suffered injustice as far as development is concerned because it has not been given its right share of the national cake. That is why we are saying that the least the BBI team can give us is this principle of one man–one vote–one shilling.”

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This principle has been fought by pastoral communities, with Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale leading the onslaught. This group is pushing for the “one kilometre–one vote–one shilling” principle.

Wamatangi argues that for justice and equity, population must override all other parameters in any formula used for resource allocation.

“This has been interpreted in other quarters to be a Central Kenya affair but the injustice is equally experienced in Bungoma, Kakamega and Kisii. We will not be stopped from demanding this. It is the key demand, on the BBI team, from Central Kenya leaders,” said Wamatangi.

Whether the country should have a presidential or parliamentary system of governance will also be a hot potato for Haji's team.

Raila's orange side favoured the parliamentary system from the days of the Bomas talks but this was opposed especially by leaders from Central Kenya. They said Kenyans should elect the president instead of leaving this duty to Parliament.

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But today, ODM party is rooting for creation of a weak PM’s position where the holder is appointed by the president from among the elected MPs.

BBI Building Bridges Initiative Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji Uasin Gishu County

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