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Fresh storm over BBI as campaigns begin amid budget queries

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during a BBI delegates meeting held at Kisii Sports club. (Sammy Omingo, Standard)

Early campaigns by Opposition leader Raila Odinga to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report have ignited a fierce debate on the true intention of the initiative.

Deputy President William Ruto’s allies are reading mischief and have called for investigations by the Director Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti and Parliament on the operations of the BBI task force whose extended mandate by President Uhuru Kenyatta has not been gazetted.

However, Raila and Uhuru’s factions have defended the regional campaigns announced by the two principals last year, saying they will help educate Kenyans on contents of the report.

The issue of where the finances are coming from has also taken centre stage, with questions lingering on which vote from the exchequer, is funding the exercise.

Historical injustices

It is not clear whether the money was drawn from the Office of the President (OP) or if it is part of the Sh10 billion kitty set aside for historical injustices.

Contacted yesterday, the task force joint secretary Paul Mwangi declined to comment, saying until his team’s Terms of Reference (ToRs) is gazetted, he cannot say anything.

“This is a legal issue,” he said.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said the campaigns raise legal issues, especially on funding as there is no budget approved by Parliament for BBI.

Even as the funding aspects remains unclear, some leaders pointed to the Interior ministry as the source of the funds, saying their colleagues supporting the document have been receiving regular stipends to popularise the report.

Senate Legal Affairs Committee chair Senator Samson Cherargei said the Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji-led committee should be put to task to account for the taxpayers’ money spent so far in its activities.

“The DCI should move in if they paid consultancies, booked venues for events, traversed the country to collect views. These activities should be documented plus cost. The Sh10 billion should be accounted for,” he stressed.

“The BBI secretariat should give Kenyans a breakdown on how the money was spent. The National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Investment (CPAIC) should also audit the team’s work,” he proposed.

Nairobi Senator Johnstone Sakaja differed with Cherargei over the Sh10 billion spent by the task force, saying the budget was for retribution for historical injustices such as the Wagalla Masacre and others.

“There is no vote specifically for the BBI passed in Parliament. The funding could be from the OP itemised budget for the department of Cohesion and Peace Building,” he said. Sakaja noted that there is no contest on the BBI report, it is about public education.

On Friday, Raila and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i led a meeting in Kisii County where a declaration was made over the BBI report.

Kakamega County is the team’s next stop, but things are not rosy in the House of Mulembe.

The western leaders are spoiling for a showdown on January 18 during the BBI meeting at Bukhungu Stadium as a section of MPs allied to the DP, ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Senator Moses Wetangula (Bungoma) claimed they have been excluded in the plans and will therefore boycott it.

The standoff boils down to the funding and true intentions of the early campaigns for the document set to be refined after the president extended the term of the task force.

“It is about time we got serious about the BBI process. We call for the speedy gazattement of the extension of this process with very clear terms of reference. Soon after, the technical team should produce a detailed timetable on the way forward,” urged Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi, who is also the chair of the Western region Parliamentary caucus.

He cautioned: “Anything short of this is to play wicked political games in the guise of BBI.”   

ANC’s Lugari MP Ayub Savula and Godfrey Osotsi (Nominated) insisted that BBI is a national issue, organised and financed by the task force.

Savula said if the Bukhungu rally spearheaded by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Devolution Cabinet Secretary (CS) Eugene Wamalwa and Cotu-Kenya Secretary General Francis Atwoli will turn into endorsement of kingpins, he will stage a walk-out.

“The meeting is organised by the BBI task force and financed by it,” said Osotsi.

Cherargei was blunt and even took a swipe at governors whom he accused of financing the campaigns from the counties’ vote.

He singled out Kisii Governor James Ongwae, whom he said should be probed to explain why he used county funds to organise a national government event.

Bad name

“The actions of the governor are illegal, unconstitutional and there is no economic justification for it. The reallocation of county funds for the Kisii campaign held on Friday is an illegality and gives devolution a bad name,” he warned.

“The taskforce’s term was extended by the President last year on December 1. It has not been gazetted, where is it driving its powers without necessary legal mechanism to carry it its work?” he added.

Cherargei said the ongoing campaigns initiated by a section of leaders are meant to hoodwink Kenyans. “Who is opposing the BBI to warrant such a mounted campaign? We are supporting the document 100 per cent, including full stops and commas. Who are they preaching to? To the converted?” he asked.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said early campaigns on the BBI wrong. “That’s an anomaly and hence an audit query,” he said.

Kang’ata termed the whole thing as politics. “It is also a quasi-legal process. Leaders are playing politics which is an intersection with the law. There is no law guiding the process presently even though Kenya are entitled to freedom of information.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021