Kenya: BBI Report Ready, Handover Expected 'By Mashujaa Day'

13 October 2019

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has finally sought an appointment with President Uhuru Kenyatta to officially hand in the final report, possibly before Mashujaa Day.

There are strong indications that, other than proposing a shift to the parliamentary system of government, the team further wants some counties merged -- in what may attract resistance like what has befallen the push by Ekuru Aukot's Thirdway Alliance.

At least 14 county assemblies have rejected Dr Aukot's Punguza Mizigo Bill, on the grounds it seeks to reduce the number of elected representatives.

The BBI task force chairman, Mr Yusuf Haji, said they were working to complete the task ahead of the October 23 deadline and are now waiting for the president's word on when to submit the report.

"The secretariat completed all the editorial work on Friday and we are good to go. The team is proud of what it has accomplished and we hope that the report will help the President and the former Prime Minister (Raila Odinga) achieve the vision they have for the country," said Mr Haji.

HANDOVER VENUE

The team has also sent a letter to Mr Odinga's office informing him that the work had been accomplished and what remains is the handover.

The BBI team is hopeful that both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will be present to receive it.

A source at the State House hinted to the Sunday Nation that Harambee House, where the March 9, 2018 handshake was cemented, is the preferred venue for the handover ceremony.

The team was mandated to tackle nine agenda, including how to end ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, how to foster inclusivity, strengthening devolution and curing divisive elections.

The report is also expected to capture aspects on enhancing safety and security, eradicating the runaway corruption in government, enabling shared prosperity and entrenching rights and responsibilities.

Earlier in the week, an attempt to block the report flopped after High Court Judge Weldon Korir dismissed a petition filed by Moraa Gesicho on the basis that she had not demonstrated how she would suffer prejudice were the report to be submitted to the President.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

The BBI team, in their responding affidavit, argued that granting Ms Gesicho her wishes would amount to an abuse of the court process, adding that she was only trying to gain political relevance. The petitioner contended that the team was not constitutionally established.

Mr Paul Mwangi, one of the BBI co-secretaries, said the final document is a product of extensive public participation and consultations that saw them go to all the 47 counties, 210 constituencies and 1,500 civic wards in town-hall meetings.

"We engaged with a total of 82 national institutions and persons, including Speakers of the bicameral Parliament, the Chief Justice, all constitutional commissions and independent offices. This is a rich document that captures the views and aspirations of the people on what ails the country with the remedial measures," Mr Mwangi said.

The country has been anxious to know the proposals BBI would come up with and whether President Kenyatta is ready to go the whole hog in implementing it before leaving the office.

While both Mr Haji and Mr Mwangi avoided talking about the contents of the document, there have been reliable leaks from within the team that they chose not to recommend a referendum as a way of changing the Constitution to re-introduce the position of a powerful prime minister, among other landmark alterations to the supreme document promulgated in August 2010.

REFERENDUM

Aware of the possible machinations by those opposed to its creation, members of the team are said to have taken an oath never to disclose to the public the exact location of their retreat after collecting views to write the report. "Announcing the venue would expose us to infiltration," Mr Haji said.

Deputy President William Ruto is openly opposed to a referendum. Having trained his eyes on the presidency in 2022, he is keen to inherit the seat in its current form and structure. The DP and his allies gave the team a wide berth. He initially opposed the idea of his boss embracing Mr Odinga but later made an about-turn.

ODM, Mr Odinga's party, is said to have been thrust back to the drawing board to brainstorm on options available to them should there be no referendum.

President Kenyatta, as much as he has said he prefers a regime that would cure a winner-takes-all scenario at the polls, is said to hold that the exercise seen in many ways as a general election given its disruptive nature, would steal the thunder from him in his last days in the office.

Mr Odinga has previously stated that the country would likely have a referendum to alter the executive structure to eliminate ethnicisation of state power.

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