A stern warning from State House forced the Rift Valley leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto to shelve demands to have the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report go through Parliament.
Sources privy to the meeting held at Lake Naivasha Resort yesterday, told the Saturday Standard that the 98 leaders in attendance were told to tone down on their demands on the BBI report.
“Our leader (read the Deputy President) sent emissaries to prevail upon us not to adopt a hardliner stance on the BBI report implementation. It was clear from him that he does want us to be seen like we are daring the President,” said a vocal Rift Valley Member of Parliament who attended the meeting but did not wish to be named.
Another source said State House was keenly following the developments from Thursday night and by Friday morning, all those who attended the meeting had softened their stance on the matter.
“The message was stern and clear that we should desist from being seen as directly engaging the Head of State on the matter of BBI. It was not clear who delivered the message but it was loud to everyone,” said a legislator.
Before the one-day Naivasha retreat, the group had insisted that the National Assembly Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) was best-suited to lead the process to implement the report.
The CIOC is headed by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, an ally of the DP.
Yesterday, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri who addressed the meeting, admitted that the pronouncement by the president two days before the event had informed their decision.
“We respect President Kenyatta and we do not want to offend him. As leaders, we realised our party leader (Uhuru) has not made a stand on which route the BBI report will take. We did not want to be seen as challenging him,” Mr Ngunjiri revealed.
“Yes, the president might be offended by the renewed campaign around the BBI but no one has told us to tone down,” he added.
Nakuru Town West MP David Gikaria was categorical that Jubilee elected leaders had never met to state a stand on the BBI and calls to have CIOC midwife the constitutional changes were personal and not collective.
“The BBI report has not come formally to Parliament. So there was no way anyone could say that they prefer it to be implemented by Parliament. That is why we met here today to come up with a common stand, which we have adopted,” Mr Gikaria said.
The DP and his allies have strongly opposed calls for a referendum, championed by ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Yesterday, after emerging from the four-hour meeting, the Rift Valley leaders who included MPs and Senators, said they were open to all options including the referendum.
In a joint communique, the legislators challenged their proponents to come up with alternative ways to implement the BBI report without passing through Parliament.
Gilgil MP Martha Wangari said they were ready to participate in the implementation of the report by whichever means the president decides.
“In line with what was proposed by wananchi, we are ready and will fully support any proposed amendments whether through Parliament or by referendum,” she said.
Ms Wangari however, criticised leaders objecting to calls for MPs to implement the BBI report.
“The anti-Parliament crusaders should propose alternative constitutional mechanism for enacting legislation,” she said.
The legislator called for the formation of a task force to draft legislation or amendments and pass them to Parliament or county assemblies for debate.
“We fully support all efforts and every measure aimed at fighting and eliminating corruption beginning with strengthening of governance institutions,” she said.
The meeting convener Senate Majority Leader and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen denied claims that they were going against the wishes of the president by holding the meeting.
“We fully respect the president and as his juniors we shall not answer back but study the BBI report further before coming up with a way forward for the region,” he said.
He downplayed the absence of some MPs from Kanu saying that most legislators and governors were present with more than 90 in attendance.
The senator added that other issues that the meeting addressed included insecurity in North Rift and the poor prices of farm produce. “We have also discussed the recent tragedy that befell our brothers and sisters in West Pokot among other issues currently affecting Rift Valley,” he said.
Kajiado South MP Katoo Ole Mitito said that leaders from 14 counties met to discuss the report.
He denied that they were been disrespectful to the president adding that the meeting was meant to fully interrogate the report and make proposals.
“We fully support BBI report because it captures the concerns of our people especially on matters of agriculture and livestock,” he said.
Trans Nzoia Women Rep Janet Nangabo Wanyama said that they fully backed the president’s calls to Kenyans to read the report.
“The meeting has ended up uniting us further and we plan to hold more engagements in future so that we can address issues affecting the region,” he said.
Yesterday, 14 leaders from Western region held a meeting in Nairobi where they also vowed to support the BBI report. The group, led by National Assembly Chief Whip Ben Washiali however said they supported the parliamentary route to implement the BBI report.
Mr Washiali said they had reached a consensus with Ford Kenya, Jubilee and ANC leaders on implementation of the report.
“We have looked at the document and agreed to support it. The route through Parliament is the most viable one but should there be another one that the majority feels is right, let them bring it,” he said.