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Uhuru, Raila team in rush to block further amendments

By Moses Nyamori and Rawlings Otieno | November 12th 2020

Bishop Mark Kariuki (C) address members of the press November 11,  2020, at Biblica Hotel in Nairobi. Beside him are Bishop Kepha Omae (left) of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) and Bishop Dr Stephen Mutua KCCAM vice-chairman. Evangelical churches cautioned political leaders against rushing to implement BBI without capturing raised opinions. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Push by various political interest groups to amend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) could today be permanently blocked if a draft Bill is published, paving way for the collection of signatures.

A team picked by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga was yesterday making the final edits to the document.

It has emerged that various groups trooped to the BBI secretariat offices in Runda, Nairobi, to seek inclusion of their demands in the report.

Sources indicated that Senate Minority Leader James Orengo and a team of lawyers have been tasked to work with the secretariat to fine tune the document.

Other reports indicate that the president and ODM leader could unveil the “amended version” on Monday, and officially launch collection of signatures at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio, his Minority counterpart, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Minority Whip Junet Mohammed and Jubilee coalition joint secretary Adan Keynan spent time at the secretariat to oversee the final edits.

The leadership of the Frontier Counties Development Council led by Mandera Governor Ali Roba, Cabinet secretaries Ukur Yatani (Treasury), John Munyes (Petroleum) and Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dulo were also present.

The council has been lobbying to have issues of revenue allocation, representation and operationalisation of Equalisation Fund addressed.

The groups met the secretariat and experts led by joint secretary lawyer Paul Mwangi, Prof Ben Sihanya and the editorial team of drafters for the better part of yesterday morning.

“Whips of both Houses have been put on standby. The amended version is expected to be launched maybe as early as Monday by the two principals,” said a source at the meeting.

Another politician at the meeting said it was not yet confirmed if there would be a launch of the amended version, saying everything will be made clear today.

“From tomorrow (today) it will be clear if there will be a launch of the amended version. But there are no much changes in the document, just some little editing,” said the MP, who sought anonymity.

Mr Keynan said that leaders from the pastoralists’ community were still lobbying for inclusion of their proposals in the final draft of the BBI.

“Am not aware of any particular meeting today but we have been lobbying for our issues to be included in the final draft. We had raised issues with representation, revenue sharing, affirmative action and the Livestock Marketing Authority among others,” he said.

New ideas

Raila had on Tuesday ruled out any significant amendments to the document launched at Bomas of Kenya.

“There is significantly little chance of significant new ideas being brought into the BBI document ahead of the referendum, except for editorial work to make it explicit on demands by various groups where it sounds vague or general, as is the case with the issues of pastoralists,” he said.

“It is basically done and there is little likelihood that new ideas will be pushed into it. However, there are groups that feel their views were not captured in the manner they were presented during the collection of views and those are the corrections we are promising to make,” Raila tweeted.

Raila and Uhuru are walking a tight rope of either entertaining new suggestions – that are likely to delay the process – or ignore them and risk facing stiff opposition against the proposed constitutional amendments.

At the centre of the horse-trading is a political supremacy battle pitting the president and ODM leader on one side and Deputy President William Ruto on the other side, with each camp trying to take credit for every step in the process.

MCAs who will be required to approve the document in at least 24 assemblies before it goes to Parliament – are some of the interest groups threatening to oppose the report if their demands are ignored.

Governors and MPs have also made a raft of demands.

Ploy to delay

Ruto rejected at least five proposals in the document, including the expansion of the Executive, appointment of IEBC commissioners and Judiciary Ombudsman.

Uhuru and Raila's allies are already jittery that there could be a ploy to delay the process while politicians backing the DP say they will only support BBI if their issues are considered.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju yesterday termed some of the demands as political blackmail meant to frustrate the process.

“What we need to do is to go out there and put the questions for Kenyans to decide. We cannot be blackmailed by people who are pushing for individual interests. It is the people of Kenya they are trying to blackmail by these demands,” said Mr Tuju.

The Jubilee Secretary-General noted that the BBI report has robust proposals on resource sharing and the fight against corruption which should not be muddied by political sideshows.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi said reopening the document will mess up the process and the report cannot accommodate “every little thing that each village wants.”

“When you start hearing leaders talking about what should happen to governors doing their second and last term. You cannot hold Kenyans at ransom because you have a problem with a running mate of opposite gender,” said Mbadi.

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli maintained that Uhuru and Raila will make the final decision on the document that will take care of interests of Kenyans. “Uhuru and Raila are the principals in this process and they will make the final decision. There is nothing that is going to delay the process,” said Atwoli.

But Ruto allies, led by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale and his Soy counterpart Caleb Kositany, insisted that issues raised by the various groups have to be captured to make the process inclusive.

“When I convened the Pastoralists Parliament Group and Frontier Counties Development Council, we interrogated the document and realised exclusion of our people,” said Duale.

“Unless the issues we have raised are considered, it will be difficult to sell the document to our people,” he added.

Kositany said the push for more amendments was an indication that the process was not inclusive from the word go. “Everybody must be listened to. This is the inclusivity that BBI is lacking. We want this process to be non-contested as much as possible so that we can even pass it through acclamation,” said Mr Kositany.

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