Catholic bishops reject key BBI proposals

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) chairman Archbishop Philip Anyolo reads a statement on behalf of other bishops at the Marian Shrine in Subukia, Nakuru County on November 12, 2020. The bishops rejected key proposals in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report and called for further dialogue. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard].

The Catholic church has opposed some proposals in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, terming them “good but dangerous”.

The church’s bishops, who retreated to the Marian Shrine in Subukia, Nakuru County, to deliberate on the BBI report, rejected the plan to give more powers to the president, saying it will not cure the winner-takes-it-all problem.

They called for further dialogue to achieve inclusivity.

“To give the president the power to appoint the prime minister and two deputies risks consolidating more power and creating an imperial president. This will create the same problem BBI set out to solve,” said Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman Archbishop Phillip Anyolo.

The proposal, he said, would not end the recurring conflicts reported every election.

“The expanded Executive was supposed to reflect the face of Kenya and tame the winner-takes-it-all structure. As it is in the report, this will not be achievable since all powers lie with one person -- the winner,” Anyolo said.

He said this proposal should be reviewed to ensure more Kenyans have a say on whether they want a powerful president.

The bishops also rejected the plan to expand Parliament, saying this will burden taxpayers.

“Expansion of Senate to 94 members and National Assembly to 363 will be a huge burden for a country already reeling under a huge wage bill. We don’t want more government but a better government,” he said.

The conference also criticised proposals to give political parties an upper hand in the appointment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), saying this would cast doubts on the credibility of elections.

“Having political parties appoint members to the IEBC is dangerous. IEBC will turn to a political outfit with partisan interests,” he said.

They also opposed the creation of the Kenya Police Council as a replacement for the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) as a watchdog for the Kenya Police Service.

Independence of police

“Formation of Kenya Police Council headed by the Interior Cabinet secretary in place of Ipoa will render Kenya a police state and compromise the independence of the police from the Executive,” Anyolo said.

The bishops also rejected ODM leader Raila Odinga’s claim that there is only room for editorial changes, warning that denying Kenyans an opportunity for dialogue would divide the country yet the process was meant to unite them.

“BBI is a product of dialogue and the process should take the path of consensus building,” said Mombasa Archbishop Martin Kivuva.

The bishops said the call for further dialogue comes from Kenyans who should be the biggest beneficiaries of the process.

“There is an urgent need to give them an opportunity to review the report. This process has serious implications on the future of this country,” he said.

KCCB vice-chair Bishop John Oballa of Ngong’ Diocese called on the political class to slow down on the process, saying it was not an emergency.

Pressing issues

“The rush to have the BBI implemented is fashioned towards aspirations of certain leaders in 2022. This should not be the case. It should be about Kenya, our direction as a country, for ourselves and posterity,” said Bishop Oballa.

He said the country has more pressing issues that politics should not overshadow.

“Hit by a pandemic, this is not the time to subject Kenyans to heightened political activity. Our limited resources should not be channelled to a referendum at a time we have struggling education and health sectors that need urgent support,” said Oballa.