National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi dealt politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto a blow by ruling out Parliament as a route for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, giving the strongest indication yet that the document will be subjected to a referendum.
Following the report's launch on Wednesday, politicians allied to DP Ruto have rooted for a parliamentary process while those who support Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga have called for a referendum.
Mr Muturi said on Sunday that the report belongs to the people, who must have a say on its implementation.
“It has no way of coming to Parliament. Let it be there with the people. You know that before it comes to Parliament, then I must approve, but I've said it belongs to the people and it has no route to Parliament,” Mr Muturi said during a church fundraising meeting in Uriri constituency, Migori.
The Speaker was hosted by area MP Mark Nyamita and Senator Ochillo Ayacko. Other leaders present included ODM chairman John Mbadi, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and MPs Tim Wanyonyi (Westlands) and Maisora Kitayama (Kuria East).
Mr Muturi called on Kenyans to read the report and examine it. “They need to find out what is good and how to improve the other (areas).”
He maintained that the report is a people-centred initiative that should be scrutinised by citizens, who, he said, are the biggest beneficiaries.
Mr Muturi noted that taking it to Parliament would not give citizens the much-needed space to articulate their demands through the popular initiative.
He further observed that Article 10 of the Constitution on inclusivity would not have been adhered to if the report was left at the mercy of political bigwigs.
But even as the legislative head made clear the route the report should take, allies of the DP, led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, took their push for a parliamentary initiative to Mr Odinga’s turf in Bondo.
Speaking at Bondo Catholic Church, where he presided over a fundraiser, Mr Murkomen suggested that only contentious issues that might emerge during debate on the floor of Parliament should be taken to the public for approval through a referendum.
“Personally, I have no problem with whatever proposal may be put forward by any political [side]. We are prepared to sit down with both the majority and minority sides in Parliament and be able to discuss emerging issues that may be contentious," said the senator, who was accompanied by McDonald Mariga and DP Ruto’s aide Farouk Kibet.
CLEANING UP REPORT
In Ugenya, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot asked President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to have a meeting with Mr Ruto to ensure the country does not slide into a stalemate over the BBI report.
Speaking at Yogo Catholic Church, where area MP Dave Ochieng’ hosted him, the senator also asked the three top leaders in the country to openly tell Kenyans which proposals they would wish to see included in the final document instead of engaging in endless sideshows.
“Each of the three leaders [has] said the report is good. We need them to state categorically the sections of the report they want expunged or amended. They must provide the much-needed direction and leadership on this critical debate,” he said.
President Kenyatta's Jubilee Party and Mr Odinga’s ODM have assured Kenyans that the report will be fine-tuned to address their concerns once it is subjected to the technical committee.
This comes amid growing concerns among some leaders across the political divide that the report does not address well the thorny issue of inclusivity, among other proposals by Kenyans.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the BBI proposals are not cast in stone.
“The dialogue has just started and we will have an opportunity to refine and improve all the proposals,” Mr Sifuna told the Nation.
His Jubilee counterpart Raphael Tuju on Friday agreed that “a lot of things in the proposal were still debatable. The BBI report is just the voice of the people and the next move now will be subjecting it to a team of experts, who will look into it and address all the concerns,” Mr Tuju said on a morning radio talk show on KBC's Radio Mayienga.
He told Kenyans that some of the changes will require parliamentary initiative or a referendum.
ODM national chairman John Mbadi said the report will be taken through public participation so that Kenyans can scrutinise it before it is implemented.
He said the exercise will give everyone an opportunity to propose changes on matters they feel do not suit them.
“There will come time when everyone will be given a chance to propose amendments in the report. Kenyans will air their views on what they want to be changed in BBI before it is implemented,” he said.
Parliament, he said, cannot make constitutional amendments through a draft.
In DP Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold, a showdown is looming over the report, with leaders clashing over how it should be adopted.
While one group, led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, wants a people-driven process, another group wants a parliamentary process.
Leaders who spoke to the Nation, led by Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and MPs Silas Tiren (Moiben) and Mr Kutuny said they were pushing for a people-driven initiative.
“We call on President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Mr Odinga to form a committee of experts to fine-tune the report and prepare a platform for ordinary Kenyans to engage and collect their views. The experts should also formulate bills necessary for the actualisation of the BBI,” Mr Kutuny said.
According to Governor Tolgos, a caucus of leaders from the Rift Valley that will be led by Mr Ruto will traverse the region to ensure residents receive, read and discuss the document without “fear, political inclination or intimidation”.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and MPs Caleb Kositany (Soy), Daniel Rono (Keiyo South) and Julius Melly (Tinderet) said Parliament can address the issues raised in the BBI report.
“Referendum or no referendum is dependent on the proposals. Why do you want to subject this country to an expensive and divisive exercise yet the issues raised by BBI don’t require us to go to a referendum?” Mr Sang posed.
He said he read malice in the views of those opposed to a parliamentary route.
“They have been talking about having a powerful prime minister elected through Parliament, but now they are telling us that they cannot trust Parliament to go through this report,” he said.
On Sunday, the co-secretary of the BBI task force, Mr Paul Mwangi, told the Nation that a popular initiative is the only way everybody can participate in the country's reform process.
This, Mr Mwangi noted, means involving the people, both Houses (Senate and National Assembly) and even county assemblies.
“Everybody will play their role. Even in a popular initiative, Parliament still gets involved. Parliament is involved in all ways,” Mr Mwangi stated.
Reporting by Justus Ochieng’, Ian Byron, George Odiwuor, Dickens Wasonga, Wycliffe Kipsang’, Stanley Kimuge, Ndung’u Gachane, Titus Ominde and Shaban Makokha