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Bridges team seeks extension of term to collect more views

By Jacob Ng'etich | March 9th 2019
President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga with some members of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) at a past meeting in State House, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

The team picked to consolidate the aspirations of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga has asked for an extension of its one year mandate so that they can collect views from all the counties as opposed to regions as they had earlier planned.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) joint secretary Paul Mwangi said they had decided in the spirit of inclusivity to visit all the 47 counties a move that would not be realised before the May deadline.

“We have asked the president for an extention of the task force’s mandate period because the team changed its mind and decided to use the counties as the small units that we can visit,” said Mwangi.

If allowed, the BBI will work up to September when they believe they would complete gathering views on the 9-point agenda agreed by the President and the opposition leader during on the March 9th handshake.

The taskforce is expected to give a report that reflects Kenyans views on ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, fight against corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility.

The team has already visited 21 counties, and will be in Vihiga, Busia and Kakamega next week effectively covering half of the counties. “We project that we will have completed all the counties by mid June and then move to prepare the final report,” he said.

Tabled proposals

On Thursday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tabled proposals to the 14 member committee calling for two elections as opposed to the current single six ballot polls.

In the counties that they have visited in the last five months, Mwangi said corruption and devolution were the two predominant issues that kept popping up with Kenyans asking for stiffer punishment of corrupt government officials.

“Most Kenyans are saying let the corrupt get heavy sentences, some are calling for the China method where those who steal government funds are executed,” he observed.

Kenyans feel the judiciary was not doing enough on execution of the cases and insist that the judicial process for the graft matters needed to be fast tracked. They also want assets recovered from the estates of those accused of corruption.  

On devolution, Mwangi noted that anyone could have underrated the Kenyans attachment to their counties and in their movements across the country none of those who had presented views was ready to have their devolved units altered. “This is a very emotive issue for any Kenyans, they keep on telling us please don’t touch our counties,” said Mwangi.

The number of counties was an emotive political subject that saw a clash between Raila and Ruto at the just ended 6th devolution conference in Kirinyaga.

Raila had suggested that Kenyans needed to address the fact that a number of counties were too tiny to compete economically with others in terms of population, infrastructure and resources. The opposition leader rooted for 14 regions as had been captured in the Bomas draft which was rejected in 2005 referendum, claiming that was the better option. In a rebuttal Dr Ruto opposed any attempt to abolish or merge counties as well as create another devolution structure and equated Raila’s proposal to a “a treacherous anti-devolution narrative.”

“In fact Kenyans are calling for more functions to be devolved,” explained Mwangi.

Other issues that have stood out in their rounds in the meetings are the cyclic uncertainity that comes with the elections and the prospects of a lasting peace in the country.

Curiously, most Kenyans were not worried more about the electoral injustice instead their concern was on the winner-takes-it-all victory that ensured the victor dis not share power.

In fact, in most of their sessions few Kenyans would raise issues on IEBC and the need to overhaul it to improve electoral justice but dwelt much on the structure of power and the need to have it spread to more people.

But most unnerving for most Kenyans was the fact that peace in Kenya was very temporary and could be destabilised every election cycle.

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