Kenya: Senate Leadership Retreats to Build Consensus on BBI Proposals

29 October 2020

Nairobi — The Senate leadership has retreated to find ways of building consensus on the proposals contained in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report that was launched on Monday.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said the leadership is meeting to scrutinise the report with a view of building consensus among the legislators.

Lusaka, who is leading the Senate leadership two day-retreat in Naivasha, said that the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is already sieving through the document with the sole aim of charting the way forward for the implementation of the report whose contents are largely anchored on changing the country's governance structure.

The report which is a product of the March 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, seeks to eliminate the challenge posed by the winner-takes-it-all system of governance by introducing the post of the Prime Minister, two deputies and the Office of the Leader of Official Opposition.

"Senate has also come under a lot of focus because of BBI and already the committee is reviewing the document in comparison to what the House presented to the BBI secretariat to see which areas were picked and which areas were not picked," he said.

Lusaka said the retreat will give the legislators an opportunity to improve the document as they seek to build consensus around it prior to kickstarting the process of drafting the referendum bill, collection of one million signatures and the ultimate presentation of the referendum question.

Already, House Minority Leader and Siaya Senator James Orengo has intimated that the referendum bill will be ready in mid-November and it will be accompanied by one million signatures to be forwarded to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification.

Once the draft bill is approved by the electoral agency, it will be transmitted to county assemblies which will in turn debate it for either approval or rejection.

With both President Kenyatta and Odinga keen on having the proposals contained in the report passed through a popular vote, at least 24 county assemblies must approve the bill and consequently subject Kenyans to either approve or reject the contents of the document.

Should the Head of State and the former premier have their way, this will be the third time the country goes into a vote for a constitutional review after the 2005 and the 2010 referendum.

The retreat that brings together Senators drawn from both Jubilee and the National Super Alliance (NASA) is, however, keen on finding a consensus that will guide the process of moving the BBI process forward after a section of Senators loyal to Deputy President William Ruto vowed to reject it.

While lauding the proposal in the document that allocates counties more resources, Lusaka said once the document is implemented the Senate will be strengthened.

"Even as more money is being proposed to go to the counties that means we are recognising devolution because if there is any gain that we got from the 2010 Constitution it was devolution and devolution can not be left just to hang, there must be an institution that takes care of devolution," he said.

The BBI report by the Senator Yusuf Haji-led Task Force wants the County Revenue allocation increased from the current 15 percent of the national share to 35 percent.

If the proposal is adopted at the upcoming referendum, then Counties will receive more money on top of the Sh316.5 billion they have received in the last financial years thus enhancing service delivery.

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