President Uhuru Kenyatta with Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the BBI Consultative meeting at Great Rift Lodge in Naivasha on November 2, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

The race to find consensus on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report before it is presented to the public for a referendum next year is gathering pace.

The report that was recently launched at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, though well received by majority of the political players, has attracted opposition from Deputy President William Ruto and his allies.

Uhuru and Raila, who at first opposed opening the report for further amendments now appear willing to listen to the dissenting voices and incorporate more views.

The two leaders were on a charm offensive last week in Naivasha where they addressed 300 pro-BBI Senators and MPs, whom they entrusted with ensuring that the report sails through when it is presented to Kenyans for a vote.

But Uhuru and Raila had to agree to some demands by the leaders from the Senate and National Assembly.

Declared unconstitutional

Senators wanted the BBI proposals on the House rephrased while MPs wanted the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) included in the report and be anchored in the Constitution. The court has declared NGCDF unconstitutional, arguing that the country’s governance system only recognises national and county governments as entities that should be responsible for public funds.

“When the president and former prime minister came to Naivasha, we requested that some editing be done to strengthen the Senate while MPs wanted the NGCDF anchored in the Constitution. This was approved as a basis for our support,” said Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr.

The president and ODM leader have been meeting various stakeholders to drum up support for the report. They have met political party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua (Maendeleo Chap Chap). They have also held talks with women and churches over the document.

National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Law Society of Kenya, women leaders, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Judiciary, People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs), among other stakeholders, have voiced their concerns about the report.

Yesterday, Raila met with representatives from the pastoralist communities in Nairobi led by Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio and the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.

Although a section of the leaders were initially opposed to the BBI saying they would only support it if their views were considered, they appeared to change tune yesterday after ‘Raila promised to look into their concerns’.

“I appreciate having had a robust and candid discussion with leaders from pastoralist communities. Their views on the BBI process that they expressed support for are welcome and shall be taken into consideration as we formulate the way forward for our country. We have agreed to have a technical team to go through their issues,” Raila said after the meeting at a Nairobi hotel.

Today, the president and ODM leader are expected to address the 47 governors and Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) in Naivasha. The county bosses and MCAs have laid down their demands, which they say must be addressed before they support the BBI.

The issues include the place of the second term governors beyond 2022, the increase of allocation of funds to counties from 15 to 35 per cent and how much of the counties’ budget should be given to the proposed ward development fund.

Ruto has been calling for consensus on the composition of the Executive, political parties’ role in nominating commissioners to the IEBC and the gender rule.

Hardline position

“Pastoralist Parliamentary Group (PPG), NCCK, women, Senate and other stakeholders want consensus on the BBI. It is a contradiction to want to amend the Constitution while refusing to amend a mere BBI report. It is defeatist to build walls to shut others out while purporting to build bridges,” the DP tweeted yesterday.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen welcomed calls for consensus.

“Well done. Glad you have rescinded your earlier hardline position that BBI won’t be amended. Now let’s amend the document to capture concerns of pastoralists, devolutionists and Judiciary then pass BBI by consensus. We don’t want us versus them attitude. Let’s reason together as Kenyans,” Murkomen said.

Constitutional lawyer Waiganjo Kamotho called for clarity on the process to clear  doubts of the public.

“We need to know if the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will go to the people in its present form or it can be altered. If it can be changed, then this can be the window to accommodate emerging issues. The other Bills can be drafted by the Kenya Law Reform Commission before being presented to Parliament,” Waiganjo said.

The pastoralist community, comprising of 40 MPs, governors, Cabinet Secretaries, Chief Administrative Secretaries and MCAs met with Raila and agreed to back the report.

Under the Frontier Counties Development Council and PPG, the group last week identified 11 key issues they wanted addressed if they were to back the report.

Yatani said the pastoralist community has a big stake in the constitutional discourse of the country.

“We as a community have resolved to support BBI in totality. The president has always had the interest of our people and we have a special place in his heart. So we fully support the BBI,” he said.

Joint Jubilee Secretary Adan Keynan (Aldas) said they resolved to present their issues to Uhuru and Raila.

“We have had meetings about some of the issues that concern us. But we want to present our issues at the table, not outside. We have agreed to have a small technical team to brush through our issues and we have unanimously resolved to support BBI,” said Keynan.

PPG chairman Alois Lentoimaga (Samburu North) said they want the equalisation fund be continued for another 20 years. The leaders also requested for the establishment of the Livestock Market Authority.

Raila said North Eastern has historically been marginalised and that the potential of the area that is rich in mineral resources should be unlocked.