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Committee’s  report sets stage for plebiscite

Sunday June 28 2020
BBI

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto) left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the BBI report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | DPPS

By JUSTUS OCHIENG'

It  is now all systems go for a national referendum after the Steering Committee on the Implementation of the  Building Bridges Initiative Report completed its report ahead of the June 30 deadline. 

The committee’s chairman, Garissa  Senator Yusuf Haji, told the Nation that they will hand the report to  President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, when the two re ready.

On Sunday, State House was non-committal regarding when the President would receive the report. State House spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo did not respond to the Nation’s queries on the matter.

“We have finished our report but we will wait for them (President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga) to give us a date that suits them both so that we can hand it over to them,” Mr Haji told the Nation.

A senior official in the committee said that “Kenyans must now tighten their belts as it is now clear that the country will be going for a national referendum.”

“It is a somewhat a tough journey, especially in view of the current global situation, but Kenyans must understand that for peace and stability in future, we must accept this process. We must sacrifice now for a better Kenya tomorrow,” he said.

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He revealed that some proposals that touch on the national government structure, the structure of devolved government, protected commissions and functions of Parliament can only be ratified through a national referendum.

“This is in accordance with  articles 255, 256 and 257 of the 2010 Constitution,” he noted.

The committee’s mandate was to oversee the implementation of the BBI Report that was launched in November 2019 by “structuring recommendations by Kenyans into implementable action plans”.

The BBI, a product of the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, seeks to address the nine-point agenda contained in a communiqué released by the two at Harambee House, Nairobi, on March 9, 2018.

It sought to address ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, inclusivity, devolution and divisive elections. Other pertinent issues the drive sought to have a discourse on were security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility.

Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata said that the basic norm that underpins the  2010 Constitution was the need to avoid a repeat of  the 2007 post-election violence.

“This is what German Jurist Hans Kelsen, in his publication, Pure Theory of Law,  describes as “ground norm” or “basic norm”, he said.

“The 2013 and 2017 post-election violence showed that  the 2010 Constitution did not achieve this basic norm, hence the  BBI,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Senate Minority Chief Whip  Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said that the end result of the BBI “will shape the general elections and beyond.”

“As far as I am concerned, if we streamline the elections, the rest will fall into place,” he said adding that the chapter on manipulated or divisive elections is key to a peaceful election,’’ Mr Kilonzo added.

He said  those opposing it see it as a “ruse to edge them out of the game.”

“It has definitely created a formidable alliance of those for and against. The discussions will take the form of ‘them’ versus ‘us’,”  added the Makueni senator.

Sources within the BBI committee confided to the Nation that the final proposal reflects the initial one, that proposed an executive president, his deputy, who will be his running mate, s as well as a Prime Minister but with two deputies.

The premier will come from the majority party in the House elected by MPs.

There will also be a mixture of Cabinet secretaries, some appointed from among MPs in Parliament while others will be technocrats.

East African Legislative Assembly member Dr Oburu Oginga in an apparent reference to the ongoing parliamentary purge, said that Parliament was being aligned  to pave the way for the implementation of the BBI agenda.

But as proponents of BBI eagerly await the report,  some allies of DP Ruto had threatened to frustrate any efforts to have the country hold a referendum before 2022 General Election.

Jubilee deputy secretary-general and Soy MP Caleb Kositany said they will not approve any money set aside for a referendum before the general elections.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech told the Nation that, although they intend to support the President until he completes his term, they will not allow any budget catering for a plebiscite before the next election.

Mr Kang’ata said that nobody will prevent the provision of a budget for the vote.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua said  that amending the constitution is not a priority for  Kenyan at the moment.

“Most of the things being proposed, which BBI has not even laid bare for public scrutiny, have been addressed by the 2010 Constitution,” she said.

“Furthermore, we cannot indulge in constitution making at the moment, when we are faced with a health crisis,” she added.

Ms Karua said there was need for a national conversation to address pertinent issues Kenyans were facing rather than making changes to the current constitution.

President Kenyatta, in his 57th Madaraka Day address at State House, Nairobi, attended by Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, among other dignitaries, made it clear that the country was in a constitutional moment.

“…in 2010, we formulated and adopted a new constitution, altogether replacing the independence constitution. Ten years later, I am already discerning a constitutional moment. Not a moment to replace the 2010 Constitution but one to improve on it.”

“A moment that will right what we got wrong in 2010. But fundamentally, the constitutional moment I discern is one that will bring an end to the senseless cycles of violence we have experienced in every election since 1992,” President Kenyatta said.

He said the amendments will deepen the country’s democratic credentials and lead to a much more inclusive society. “I believe this was the intention of the framers of the 2010 constitution,” he said. He added  that Kenyans cannot re-imagine their nationhood without changing the country’s political architecture.

“…and we cannot change this architecture without reengineering our constitution.”

He hinted at a change in the country’s governance system saying; “we must not be afraid of changing this system, if it does not serve our present purposes.”

“The second thing that remains to be done is the transformation of our civic culture. Culture is at the core of re-imagining a national dream. And when the drafters of Chapter 6 of our constitution put pen to paper, what they wanted was to bring this culture to order.”

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