BBI moment in the offing as Raila-Ruto allies unite to lay ground for talks

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah and his Minority counterpart Opiyo Wandayi (right) during the vetting of  Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi on October 17, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya is poised for another Building Bridges Initiative moment.

The build-up started on Tuesday when the National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa and his Minority counterpart Opiyo Wandayi tabled a Motion seeking the recognition of a National Dialogue Committee  to steer the bipartisan talks ahead of the August 21 sitting.

Should Parliament pass the Motion, the committee will be expected to present a progress report on the talks between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya within 60 days.

The development comes a day after the talks team held a second meeting at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, where it sought to have the establishment and anchoring of the National Dialogue Committee legally.

According to the Motion, the team will comprise five members from each side of the political divide. Already, Kenya Kwanza has named Ichung'wa, Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Eala MP Hassan Omar and Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga as its representatives.

Azimio settled on Wandayi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi, Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni and DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa.

This committee will also recommend suitable constitutional, legal, and policy reforms concerning matters of significance to Kenyans, and its structure will be in line with Constitution. It will also be expected to uphold the functional and institutional integrity of state organs.

It further seeks to have the National Assembly and Senate approve the establishment of technical teams representing Kenya Kwanza and Azimio to help the committee.

The Kenya Kwanza technical team comprises Dr Muthomi Thiankolu, Dr Linda Musumba, Dr Duncan Ojwang and Nick Biketi, whereas Azimio settled on Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, Adams Oloo, Abubakar Zein Abubakar and Lynn Ngugi.

The National Dialogue Committee is empowered to invite stakeholders, consider public opinions and engage with experts.

The committee shall have the authority to set its own procedural rules and seeks to have the Speakers and Clerks of both Houses to offer secretarial assistance and any other required support.

Raila-Ruto talks: Azimio, Kenya Kwanza technical teams to meet to prepare agenda

The recent development and insistent that the committee be legally recognised brings back memories of BBI, which used a similar route prior to its nullification by the courts.

What had started out as a ‘handshake’ in March 2018 between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga after an election dispute morphed into the initiative, which had a 14-member steering committee. It was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the “Building Bridges Initiative Report to a United Kenya Taskforce Report.”

Leaders from Azimio and Kenya Kwanza are now concerned that just like then, the bipartisan talks will morph into talks of resurrecting the BBI.

The steering committee comprised then Garissa Senator Mohamed Yusuf Haji, Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Maison Leshomo, James Matundura and Rose Moseu.

Others were Agnes Kavindu Muthama, Saeed Mwaguni, Bishop Peter Njenga, Archbishop Emeritus Zaccheaus Okoth, Adams Oloo, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Florence Omose, Morompi ole Ronkei and John Seii.

The joint secretaries were Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi.

And just like the National Dialogue committee, the steering committee had a free hand to solicit, receive and consider written memoranda or information from the public and carry out or cause to be carried out such assessments, studies or research as may inform its mandate.

It was also to regulate its own procedure within confines of the law and the Constitution, form technical working groups as may be required in the achievement of its terms of reference and ensure meetings were held in places and at such times as it considered necessary for the proper discharge of its functions.

Similarly, the joint secretaries was at liberty to was co-opt any other person as was required to assist in the achievement of the terms of reference of the Steering Committee.