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Retreats lined up scramble for BBI goodies kicks off

By Rawlings Otieno | October 29th 2020 at 07:00:00 GMT +0300

State House choir entertains guests during the official launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on October 26, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The scramble for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has begun in earnest, with various groups seeking consensus and hoping to reap big from its implementation.

In what is akin to horse-trading, unions, regional blocks, civil society and other interest groups are placing their bets on BBI goodies after Monday’s launch.

After the Bomas launch, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his ally Raila Odinga have kept off debate on the document, as various groups wade into the BBI discourse.

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While Uhuru was officiating a Kenya Defence Forces event, signing Bills and hosting officials at State House yesterday, Raila left the country for the Democratic Republic of Congo for a meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi to review progress on the Grand Inga Hydropower project.

Hot on the heels of a scheduled Senate leadership meeting over the weekend, governors are planning a retreat in Mombasa to study the document. The BBI proposes to increase revenue allocation to counties from current 15 to 35 per cent.

The proposed increase has enticed the county chiefs, especially first term governors who want more resources to enable them fulfil campaign pledges. However, failure to create a third tier of government has dampened the spirits of second term governors who had hoped to remain politically relevant upon expiry of their terms. They will now have to settle for the few additional seats created at the top or settle for less.

“Following the feedback received from governors, the meeting that was scheduled for October 29 at Movenpick, Nairobi, has now been moved to Sarova Whitesands Hotel on the same day at 2pm,” Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya told members in a communication.

According to Mr Oparanya, the county chiefs will discuss devolution as provided for in the BBI report. They will also discuss the Universal Healthcare and the National Hospital Insurance Fund besides purchase of pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.

When Deputy President William Ruto criticised BBI provisions on the Senate at the Bomas launch, he added courage to senators who were jittery about the report’s proposals on the House. Ruto said the BBI could weaken the Senate.

Naivasha talks

A day later, the Senate leadership led by Majority Whip Irungu Kangata moved quickly to give assurances, scheduling the Naivasha talks while at the same time hitting back at the DP.

“BBI is a good document from a Senate point of view. Contrary to what critics say, it doesn’t reduce Senate’s powers. Senate powers are set out in Article 96 which remains untouched. Article 123 has to go if indeed we shall not have Nominated Senators since it deals with voting by delegations. However, I propose Senate should have equal power to originate Bills,” said Kangata.

Kangata and other senators are proposing that since the National Assembly will vet the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers, it should be given the same mandate to vet and impeach such officials. They feel there is need to relook the issue of Senate having to shore the burden of National Assembly’s failure to meet the gender threshold.

And so as the Senators head to Naivasha over the weekend, their demands are clear cut.

At the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Review Commission (IEBC’s) Anniversary Towers, nobody is sitting pretty. After taking stock of the BBI proposals, chairman Wafula Chebukati faulted it, saying it claws back on gains made over the years on electoral management.

“The sustained campaigns weaken and interfere with the independence of the commission which is guaranteed under Article 88 as read together with Article 248 and 249 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010,” Chebukati said.

The IEBC chairman added: “The criminality and unsuitability to hold office narrative driven by certain members of the political class is meant to incite the public with the intention of mob-lynching the commission and its staff, and also to create a justification for the ‘clean-slate’ recommendation in the BBI report.”

Yesterday, President Kenyatta signed into law the IEBC (Amendment) Bill No 3 of 2019 which now clears the way for recruitment of the vacant position of commissioners as well as to guide future appointment of commissioners. Trade unions too have laid bare their stakes in the BBI. From medics, teachers, nurses and their umbrella body, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), the workers have faulted one aspect or another of BBI, while giving indications that they are open to negotiations.

“SRC as presently constituted contradicts the ILO convention No 87 and 98 on free collective bargaining. Kenya is a signatory to the ILO convention. ILO domesticated it here and it is reflected in Article 41 of the Constitution. We shall review that,” Cotu boss Francis Atwoli, a key BBI supporter, said during the Bomas launch.

With Atwoli’s first whistle going out, nurses, teachers and medics followed. For the Health sector, the proposals on a health commission by an Act of Parliament as opposed to a constitutional amendment did not amuse them.

The BBI report further recommends an admissions criteria to ensure at least half of students in public boarding secondary schools are drawn from different counties to ensure regional balance by discouraging skewed enrollment of students from the dominant community in schools’ locality.

The report requires that the same applies to the Teachers Service Commission’s delocalisation policy or compliance in subsequent recruitment.

Decision-making

Persons with disabilities are equally up in arms demanding inclusion in key decision-making forums to champion for their rights. They are particularly irked by what appears to be loss of their representation in Parliament.

“If BBI will not address the issue of the disabled to nominate their own to Parliament then we will not support it. We don’t want nominations through political parties,” Makueni chair for the disabled persons, Benjamin Ngulu, said.

Yesterday, another interest group, the North-Eastern leaders met at a Nairobi hotel to discuss the BBI.

The meeting led by Mandera Governor Ali Roba said BBI will help avert post-election violence and entrench democracy.

Roba who spoke at the Bomas conference supported the report, saying with 35 per cent allocation to the county, devolution would be strengthened.

”Curing post-election violence and quelling tribal animosities during campaigns will go a long way in entrenching democracy. I thank Uhuru and Raila for championing these noble changes,” said Roba.

Sources said Mahmoud Mohammed (Mandera Senator), MPS Aden Duale (Garissa Town), Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Sophia Abdi (Ijara), Adan Haji (Mandera South) Abdi Mude (Lafey), Bashir Abdulahi (Mandera North) agreed to have a consultative meeting.

“There are some North Eastern leaders who want contentious issues refined to allow consensus. The leaders are expected to issue a statement on Monday after the consultative meeting,” said a source who sought anonymity.

The Frontier Counties Development Council and the Pastoralists Parliamentary Group are expected to address the concerns under the guidance of lawyers. Mr Duale said the leaders met with lawyers and agreed they go through the report clause by clause before taking a position. “We want to make an informed decision on the BBI document. We have asked our lawyers to go through clause by clause and identify issues of our region and the whole country because we want to be part of consensus building,” said Duale.

Other groups angling to take a position on BBI include women leaders, lawyers, youth groups and regional blocs.


BBI Raila Odinga President Uhuru Kenyatta
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