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BBI report going back to public barazas

Saturday December 14 2019
By WALTER MENYA

The recently launched Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report will be subjected to a second round of public participation, and the Sunday Nation has learnt that the final manuscript from this nationwide exercise could be vastly different from the document launched with flamboyance and fanfare at Bomas of Kenya late last month.

GAZETTE NOTICE

Just like in the first phase, when the Building Bridges for National Unity Advisory Task Force held countrywide meetings to collect public views that informed the report launched on November 27, the team, whose term has already been extended by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is planning to have town hall meetings so that Kenyans “can contribute further to the report”, said Mr Martin Kimani, who is one of the two joint secretaries of the task force.

“I think we should wait for the gazette notice (that will formally state the terms of reference of the taskforce). It will probably be published this week, but, essentially, we are going to be leading a process through which Kenyans will contribute further to the report. We will have town hall meetings all over the country,” added Mr Kimani.

President Kenyatta announced the extension of the term of the task force on Thursday following a meeting at State House, Nairobi, on Wednesday evening with the BBI team and ODM leader Raila Odinga. 

TECHNICAL EXPERTS

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State House spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo said in a statement that the task force will steer the next phase of the process “which will largely involve expanding and guiding public participation and structuring the recommendations of Kenyans into implementable action plans”.

The term of the 14-member task force expired on October 23 this year. Its membership comprises former Defence minister Yusuf Haji, who is the chairman, Prof Adams Oloo, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Joint Secretaries Kimani and Paul Mwangi, Agnes Kavindu, Florence Omose, Prof Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, Major (rtd) John Seii, Bishop Lawi Imathiu and former MP Maison Leshomo.

During the new phase, a group of facilitators will join the fray. The Sunday Nation learnt that they will comprise technical experts who have been trained to support the task force to collect and incorporate public views into the enhanced report.

A major popularisation drive of the report is in the offing and the report has already been translated into Kiswahili for mass distribution.

SUMMARISED VERSION

The Haji task force is expected to meet early next week to chart the way forward. It will also meet with the facilitators.

As a way to popularise the report, the team is planning to work with local dailies, who will publish a summarised Kiswahili version of the document.

“We are currently working on the details of how people will go out to the regions,” said Mr Kimani. “Since the task force’s mandate was only extended on Wednesday, we have to get the team to sit down on Monday and meet the facilitators.”

Mr Kimani told the Sunday Nation that the reason they are going back to the people is that “Kenyans have a bit more to say”.   

“I’m sure different views will emerge, but the point here – and I have seen people asking why go back to the people – is, if you really want something to be people-owned, then you have to give people time. There are people who have not had a chance to get the report because we did not mass-produce it, so we are giving them a chance to own it.”

DRAFT LEGISLATIONS

Besides collecting more views, the team will also be charged with reducing the proposals contained in their report into draft legislations for possible introduction in Parliament, or questions for a referendum.

The BBI report continues to divide opinion as political leaders clash over how to implement some of its contentious proposals, especially with regard to altering the structure of the Executive. 

Mr Haji’s team makes several proposals, including bringing back the position of Prime Minister, which should be considerably weaker and answerable to the presidency. The holder of the position will take over the duties of the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly as the leader of government business.

The report also proposes creation of the position of Leader of the Official Opposition, who is the runner-up in the presidential election. On corruption, the task force indicates that public officers should not do business with government, and that wealth declaration forms should be made public “and should have a written narrative of how wealth above Sh50 million was acquired”.

The task force also proposes that a new team of commissioners be appointed at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) before the 2022 elections.

BBI MANDATE

In the Bomas document, the task force suggested the creation of technical committees “to turn the report’s recommendations into the legal, policy and administrative measures required for implementation”.

“An implementation team in the Presidency, reporting directly to the President, should then be formed to quickly put these measures into effect in the next 18 months,” the task force recommended. That job has now been given back to them.

Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju says the extension of the term of the task force does not change anything insofar as the recommendation for a technical committee is concerned. 

“The problem we have in this country is that we get possessed with certain terms like ‘committee of experts’. That was a term that was used before and the extension of the BBI team’s mandate is specifically to ensure completion of the reform journey they started,” said Mr Tuju.

IMPLEMENTATION

But Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula questioned the decision by President Kenyatta to extend the term of the task force. Instead, the Bungoma Senator suggested, President Kenyatta should have appointed a team of experts to guide the implementation process.

“We support the good work that the BBI task force team did, but we don’t support the extension of its term,” said Mr Wetang’ula from Nakuru.

But it was Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria who appeared to throw the biggest spanner in the works when he claimed that the report launched on November 27 was not the document the task force had initially come up with.

According to Mr Kuria, in the “original” report – which he claimed to have a copy of – the task force wanted the election of MPs delinked from constituencies to a party list so as to control the calibre of representation. The report, Mr Kuria added, also recommended the entrenchment of regional blocs in the Constitution to make counties viable entities, and the establishment of regional premiers to supervise clusters of governors.

SIMPLIFIED VERSIONS

Mr Kuria warned that should the task force, in the next phase, change what it has already made public, he would campaign against its final report. According to him, the new mandate should be limited to the task force developing an implementation matrix of the Bomas report. “Anything less will be met with the hostility it deserves,” Mr Kuria said in an interview with Sunday Nation.

Among those who have said they are ready to assist the task force with popularising the report are Jubilee politicians opposed to Deputy President Ruto, who Saturday started distributing simplified versions of the document.

Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng’, Ndungu Gachane and Samuel Baya

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