The much-hyped Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has now turned into a riddle after its report now seems to have been shunned by the appointing authorities.
The debate and speculations on the task force’s report had reached the crescendo days before the team completed its report.
During the launch of the Syokimau-Suswa SGR line a week before the report was completed, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke passionately about the BBI and its mandate.
Now pressure is mounting on Uhuru to unveil the report, which was declared ready 16 days ago. The BBI team was co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and political scientist Adams Oloo.
While announcing the completion of the report, the team made it clear that they had made a request to hand it over to President Kenyatta.
“The joint secretaries have officially communicated to the Office of the President that the BBI report is ready for a handing over to the President. They have received word that the event will be scheduled at the first available opportunity,” stated the team’s last statement.
“Having heard how urgently Kenyans seek positive and far reaching change, the task force believes that Kenyans can utilise this auspicious moment to build bonds between us that will become a strong foundation for an inclusive, fair and prosperous nation.”
But two weeks later, President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who appointed the team after the famous March 9, 2018 handshake, have not only shunned it but muted on any debate around it.
Now, the debate about the BBI team’s activity has triggered a political circus, with politicians taking sides for or against the report they are yet to see.
While the task force retreated to write the report, two political formations were shadow boxing, with one allied to Uhuru and Raila in support of the task force report and another close to Deputy President William Ruto opposing it.
Speculations were rife that Uhuru would have unveiled the report During Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa.
Since then the Presidents’ diary has been flexible and would have easily accommodated the unveiling.
An insider at State House confided in the Sunday Standard that the President will receive the report at an opportune time, as he gauges the public mood.
But some leaders, like Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, believe President Kenyatta could have been waiting for the dust in Kibra by-election to settle before he could unveil the report.
“If that is the case then Uhuru should not unveil the report before Raila gives his apologies for what happened in Kibra. The violence by members of the ODM was a wet blanket on BBI,” said Kuria.
The argument is corroborated by Uhuru’s confidant and Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe who said the calm after Kibra by-election would provide a conducive environment for President Kenyatta to unveil the report.
After announcing the completion of the report, Haji’s team has also remained tight-lipped in the wake of speculations of radical proposals to amend the Constitution.
Last month’s statement jointly signed by the two secretaries, Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi, affirmed that they have sought audience with the President to hand in the report.
Yesterday Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said Kenyans are expecting the report to be out soon because the task force spent taxpayers’ money and therefore owes it to the countrymen.
“Kenyans have a right to know the recommendations of the BBI team, We hope it will be received soon,” said Junet.
Uriri MP Mark Nyamita said the delay in releasing the report was causing unnecessary anxiety and raising political temperatures.
Speaking during the burial ceremony of Constantine Oile, the husband to nominated Migori MCA Florence Oile, Nyamita said the President should urgently create time and receive the report.
“We are done with Kibra election and I am sure the President can now receive the BBI report and make it public, so that we can debate it,” he said.
The change of the executive structure, the reduction in the electoral seats in the counties, National Assembly and Senate are among the issues that came out frequently when various groups appeared before the BBI team.
According to the BBI team, they collected views of Kenyans from all walks of life in all the 47 counties, testimonies and petitions from professional bodies, elected leaders, constitutional commissions, civil society organisations, religious leaders and business associations. The areas reported to have been touched include the structure of the Presidency, Parliament, counties and the contentious Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report.
The issues identified include ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, safety and security and corruption.
Deputy President William Ruto’s recent tweet on the BBI ignited a backlash from ODM leaders when he said, “As a democratic society the proposals by BBI will be subjected to an open national conversation where every voice (the weak/strong, the small/big) will be heard. Those working hard to create new fault lines, an us verses them ‘clash’ will fail soo miserably they will be shocked!”
A section of ODM leaders, led by Rarieda MP Otiende Amoll and his Alego/Usonga counterpart Samuel Atandi, faulted Ruto and urged him to stop undermining the President.
Mr Amollo said BBI is a brainchild of President Kenyatta and Raila who want a bright future for the country, hence the DP should support them.
He said they will go round the country with the BBI document to collect more views and come up with a draft constitution, which will then be taken to the county assemblies for approval before it is endorsed by Kenyans.