Fears of suffering the fate of the Dr Ekuru Aukot-led attempt to change the Constitution and rising political temperatures in the country may have led to the toning down of the final recommendations in the Building Bridges Initiative report released on Wednesday.
Conversations with members of the task force and the technical team revealed that they were keen to read the national mood so as not to come up something that would divide Kenyans further.
“Things changed in October with the rejection of the Punguza Mizigo Bill. The heated political exchanges during the Kibera by-election further cemented the need to be moderate,” revealed a member.
Among the radical recommendations presented to the BBI during their nationwide hearings, some members of the task force intimated, were the introduction of a powerful PM and the reduction of counties.
“A good number of Kenyans told us punda amechoka (the taxpayer is tired). But we had to ensure we paved the way for the passing of the report,” said a member of the technical team.
What carried the day was a document that was far less revolutionary than the hype created by the politicians.
The president would be even more powerful and all the present political positions would be kept except the chief administrative officers.
But at a back-patting event on Thursday after a 15-month job, Mr Haji denied that there was any toning down of the document.
“The only area I know is that of corruption where some people had suggested that anyone found guilty of graft should be shot in public. But most of us thought we couldn’t go the China way. BBI couldn’t recommend such a thing,” he said.
Dr Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance had, among other radical recommendations, sought to reduce the salaries of officials as well as cut the number of constituencies.
The bill was, however, rejected by 24 counties, falling short of the threshold to go to the referendum where it would have been subjected to a national vote.
But even though the BBI recommendations are mild, the report has not escaped politicisation, with allies of Deputy President William Ruto feeling they were sidelined during the launch at Bomas of Kenya where most of the speakers were supporters of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
BBI chairman Yusuf Haji said the protocol debacle “should never have happened”.
“Our role was only to present the report. We had no role in the itinerary. That was very unfortunate,” Mr Haji said while fielding questions after an exit luncheon organised for the task force at a Nairobi hotel.
The Garissa senator said he and his 14-member team were proud of what they had done.
Responding to questions about the road map to the implementation, Mr Haji said a team of experts would chart the way forward and decide whether a referendum would be necessary.
“Most of what we recommended could be done legislatively,” he noted. Major (rtd) John Seei, a member of the task force, likened the report to a baby that had been delivered and needed to be tended to.
Retired Bishop Lawi Imathiu, another member, cautioned against hijacking of the report for selfish political ends.
The team spoke of the difficult beginnings when members appointed from the two sides of the 2017 General Election could not see eye to eye.