Kenya: July 2020 Most Suitable for Referendum on BBI - Paul Mwangi

22 January 2020

Nairobi — The Steering committee on the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report released in November 2019 has hinted at a possibility of a referendum to endorse the outcome of the process by July 2020.

Paul Mwangi, the joint secretary of the committee whose extended term was gazetted on January 13 told Capital FM News on Wednesday a constitutional review by June was inevitable citing the gravity of the proposals contained in the 156-page document.

Mwangi said a referendum in July would be ideal in view of the significant ground covered in championing a united front amid the escalation war of words between leading political formations.

"This year would be best from the national interest perspective. So, if everything pertaining BBI will be finalized in 2020 then that will enable the country to freely deal with other political matters that will soon start arising especially ahead of the 2022 polls," he told the writer during an exclusive interview.

Mwangi observed that some of the proposals especially those that touch on the expansion of the Executive would necessitate the need for Kenyans to be involved in deciding the fate of the document that was launched at the Bomas of Kenya by President Uhuru Kenyatta and former premier Raila Odinga in November 2019.

Mwangi emphasized that it would be desirable to have a plebiscite well in time in 2020 to "allow preparations for the 2022 elections," which have already been drawn to the BBI discourse with opposing camps throwing jabs at each other.

He was also quick to dismiss reports that the report since it was launched has generated more discord in the country noting that the "divisions witnessed have not been brought by the document but other issues."

Responding to a call by Deputy President William Ruto to have the taskforce make public its activities, Mwangi said the "timetable will be out by next week".

Already, two regional meetings have been conducted in Kisii and Kakamega where politicians led by ODM leader Odinga drummed up support for the document.

Ruto-allied legislators accused Odinga-led counterparts of transforming the regional consultative meetings into political forums to popularize their 2022 presidential ticket.

A third meeting is scheduled for Mombasa on Saturday where a showdown is looming after a section of DP Ruto allies vowed on Tuesday to attend the meeting which will be closely followed particularly to know the arrangements of the guests and most importantly if DP Ruto himself will attend.

Mwangi dismissed reports that the 14-member BBI taskforce was allocated Sh10 billion to run its operation describing the claims as "mischievous".

"Even ministries do not run with that kind of budget and they have hundreds of workers and so it is not conceivable that some 14 members of a taskforce would actually blow up that kind of money," he said.

A section of political leaders especially those allied to DP Ruto have in recent days accused conveners of BBI forums of diverting public resources to fund the meetings.

Mwangi said the Sh10 billion figure that has been discussed widely in the press was mentioned by President Kenyatta during his 2019 state of the nation address when he implied that the money would be used to "compensate for historical injustices" further saying he would, "prefer the money be spent and allocated to the claimants from the platform of BBI".

He noted that the ongoing regional meetings in the country are fully sponsored by the relevant county governments maintaining that the role of the BBI taskforce is purely to attend and listen to the ideas being fronted at the rallies and compile a report.

"Of course, some of the funds have to come from somewhere and I think wherever it comes from is a valid exercise," he said.

Mwangi whom together with his team compiled BBI I noted that during the taskforce's countrywide tours of seeking views from Kenyans it became apparent that most Kenyans were keen on ensuring that the scourge of corruption is fully eliminated.

On whether BBI II would yield any different results, Mwangi stated that the team is keen on "getting to know the mood of the people following the release of the first document."

He said the process would boost the confidence of the taskforce as it readies to prepare the final report.

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