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Intrigues, mistrust that dogged the BBI process

By Moses Nyamori and Titus Too | November 7th 2020

Major Rt. Francis Matu (second right) flanked by Major Rt. John Seii (Right) present their recommendations to the Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce chairperson Yusuf Haji (Left) on March 9, 2020, at Laico Hotel in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The latest row over the proposed constitutional changes has lifted the lid on tensed political intrigues and mistrust among the task force members during collection of views and report writing.

Steering Committee Joint Secretary Paul Mwangi yesterday claimed that Maj (Rtd) John Seii — a member of the committee — was caught more than twice secretly taking photos of sections of the report during retreats by the 14-member team.

Mwangi revealed how members of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force confronted Seii and asked him to stop taking photos of the preliminary report.

The lawyer made the claims in response to allegations by Seii that some of the articles in the BBI report were doctored without knowledge of some of the committee members.

Mwangi also disclosed how Seii claimed he was under constant pressure from undisclosed quarters during the two-year period the committee travelled across the country to collect views of Kenyans.

He is further alleged to have asked the secretariat to provide him with security during the period.

“More than two times during BBI retreats, Major Seii was caught secretly photographing presentations on the projector screen,” Mwangi tweeted.

“When asked he claimed he had bad eye sight and wanted to take a closer look. Members beseeched him to stop. Not surprised how its eventually playing out.”

The latest revelations suggest high level of mistrust between the BBI team members. It also suggests that some of the members were holding brief for outside forces.

“Of concern though is why Major Seii, a respected elder, is lying. Ever since 2018, he has said he is under pressure. Several times, he asked the secretariat for security. Even when we were signing, he told everyone he is under pressure,” Mwangi claimed.

Dismissed claims

He dismissed claims that the report was doctored, stating that some of the articles alleged to have been sneaked into the final document were in the first report.

“All the issues Major Seii is trying to disown are in the first report. PM is in first report. Saving 290 constituencies and instead adding the seats was in too. He doesn’t deny signing both reports,” Mwangi said.

The initial BBI report launched in 2019 had the proposal for the position of prime minister and two deputies as well as that of the official opposition leader.

It, however, did not have the 70 extra seats in the National Assembly that are meant to cure the two-thirds gender rule.

Seii had on Thursday claimed the team did not review the final draft and were ambushed to append their signatures on the report ahead of the official unveiling.

“We had no time to go through the document and the 14 of us looked at each other in total disbelief when we were asked to sign the final BBI draft that was set to be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga,” he said.

Seii had claimed the team chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji was not okay with the inclusion of the Judiciary Ombudsman to be appointed by the president.

He further claimed some of the task force members were alarmed by the introduction of the 70 extra seats in the National Assembly, saying the creation of the seats will be a burden on the taxpayer.

“One member declined to sign and it took the team of experts time to convince him before the entire team penned their signatures,” Seii said.

Yesterday, he insisted that they were ambushed into signing the final draft. He said he can only rate the BBI final draft on a 50:50 basis since he did not read it but signed in trust.

“We were called on a Friday and told the document was wanted for handover on a Tuesday and we had to sign it in trust. This process was done briefly and faster than any other time I can remember during the entire BBI process,” he said.

Seii said the entire process went well except for the hurried signing, which soiled the whole spirit of the process.

Jubilee Party National Advisory Council chair Albert Nyaundi and Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru termed Seii’s claims as unfortunate and against the principle behind the Handshake.

“Has he lost his mind or what? An old man of his calibre and honour ought to build and not destroy what has been put forth.

It cannot be more sad than this when the old men are destroying what we, the youth, are building on. It’s a sad day for this country,” Waruguru said.

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