Kenya: Clergy Oppose BBI Proposals, Call for Changes

13 November 2020

The Catholic Church has joined growing calls to amend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, listing four contentious proposals to amend the Constitution it wants dropped.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) yesterday said the BBI report requires "serious panel beating" before it is passed, amplifying calls to amend the report, which have been resisted by allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Earlier, the Ufungamano Joint Forum of Religious Organisations (U-JFRO) proposed radical reduction in the number of elected representatives while the Kenya Council of Church Alliances and Ministries (KCCAM), proposed a National Delegates Conference (NDC) to resolve contentious issues.

Yesterday, the Catholic bishops cautioned against reintroduction of an imperial presidency, a bloated Parliament, compromising the independence of the Judiciary, imposing a police state and a "dangerous" proposal on the electoral commission.

Prime Minister

The bishops criticised the proposal for the president to appoint the Prime Minister and two deputies. "To give the President the power to appoint the Prime Minister and the two deputies risks consolidating more power around the President thereby creating an imperial presidency. This amendment could be creating the same problem it set out to solve," they said in a statement.

"The expanded executive was supposed to reflect the face of Kenya and tame the 'winner-take-all' structure," they said in statement following their meeting at Village of Mary shrine in Subukia, Nakuru.

They said the expansion of the Senate to 94 members and National Assembly to 360 will be a big burden to the tax payers who are reeling from a huge wage bill.

"There is no reason why we should have such a large number of legislators. We do not want more government but better government," read the statement signed by 18 bishops and five Apostolic administrators.

They described a proposal to have political parties appoint members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission a "dangerous one since it will politicise the electoral body and compromise its independence".

"This proposal will turn IEBC into a political outfit with partisan interests. The question will arise on how fair the elections will be," they observed.

They cautioned the formation of a Kenya Police Council headed by the Cabinet Secretary for Interior is "a move that is likely to make Kenya a police state and compromise the independence of the police from the executive".

Referendum campaigns

The bishops clarified that they were not opposed to the BBI report as it has good ideas, but wanted more dialogue to avoid plunging the country into divisive referendum campaigns.

"We should avoid the risk of taking hard-line positions and sectarian demands, and ultimatums that destroy the very meaning and spirit of the BBI," they said.

The bishops also noted with the effects of Covid-19 pandemic, the country had no money to hold a referendum.

Separately, U-JFRO said the 47 counties should be reduced to 16 and the 290 constituencies slashed to 150 "to cut the country's ballooning wage bill."

The clerics said that Kenyans were over-represented. "The counties should be clustered into viable economic blocs. U-JFRO proposes that counties be reduced to 16 and the current counties become sub counties," the clerics said at Ufungamano House.

They said the reduction could be achieved if the former provinces of Nyanza, Western, Eastern, North Eastern, Central and Coast were split into two counties each, Rift Valley divided into three and Nairobi retained as a county.

Led by the organisation's joint secretary Mr Charles Wambugu, the more than 10 clerics drawn from different denominations said constituencies should be reduced to 150.

Similarly, Mr Evans Lugusa from the Friends Quakers Church said elected MCAs should be reduced to 750 from 1450.

They also proposed that the BBI should cap the number of Cabinet Secretaries at 16. The Constitution provides for a cabinet of between 14 and 22.

They criticized the BBI process saying it does not address concerns of the majority of Kenyans.

On Wednesday, KCCAM cautioned against threats that the report won't be amended and proposed an NDC to resolve the contentious issues.

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