Rift over BBI to play out in House as Ruto allies' ouster planned

Sunday February 09 2020

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 County on November 27, 2019. PHOTO | REBECCA NDUKU | DPPS


Preparations for the 2020/21 national budget and the Building Bridges Initiative are expected to dominate House business when Parliament resumes for the third session this week.

The two Houses were to resume on Tuesday but the date was moved to Thursday to allow members to mourn and attend the burial of former President Daniel arap Moi, who died last Tuesday at Nairobi Hospital.

The Houses will hold special sittings Monday to adjust their calendars to accommodate the change.

Mr Moi holds the record as the longest-serving MP in the history of the Kenyan Parliament. He was elected to the colonial legislative assembly in 1955 and served continuously until 2002 when he retired, clocking a record 47 years as MP.


National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said Monday’s sitting will also be used to convey President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet nominees, Mr Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Betty Maina (Trade and Industrialisation), for vetting and allow the Houses to record their condolences to the family of the former President.


The first task when MPs resume business on Thursday will be to consider the Budget Policy Statement (BPS).

Other documents the Treasury CS must submit are the Debt Management Strategy Paper and the Division of Revenue and County Allocation of Revenue Bills.

The BPS is a policy document that sets out the broad strategic priorities and policy goals that will guide the national and county governments in preparing their budgets for the financial year and over the medium term.

Parliament has until February 28 to approve the BPS and until March 16 to approve the Division of Revenue and County Allocation of Revenue Bills.

The Treasury CS has until April 30 to submit the budget estimates to Parliament. It is also the deadline for the Judiciary and the Parliamentary Service Commission to submit their budgets.


But it is the raging debate on the BBI that is expected to dominate deliberations in the two Houses, with the likelihood that the country could hold a referendum to redraw and expand the Executive after President Kenyatta declared he won’t relent on the BBI.

The BBI report, launched in November 2019, has radical proposals on the amendment of the Constitution, which will have to be done by Parliament in this session.

Mid-January, President Kenyatta extended the mandate of the BBI task force and created a technical committee to turn the report’s recommendations into legal policy and administrative measures required for implementation.

Critics have dismissed the possibility of a referendum being held this year, arguing that there is no legal regime to secure such an exercise, but the National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed insists the vote will take place.

“We have held two referendums before without the law and those saying it can’t be held are saboteurs,” Mr Mohamed said yesterday.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who said such a law is not a prerequisite for a referendum. “There is already a precedent from 2005 and 2010,” he said.


While there is agreement that the Constitution needs to be amended, the two Houses have disagreed on the nature of these amendments.

MPs allied to President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga propose the expansion of the Executive and those allied to the Deputy President William Ruto prefer strengthening the office of the Leader of Opposition.

The third session starts with bitter rivalry in the Jubilee Party leadership in the two Houses, with two sides who have taken strong opposing positions in the national discourse, a matter that may affect parliamentary business.

A fortnight ago, a group of Tangatanga MPs allied to the DP converged in Naivasha for a two-day retreat, which the opposing side dubbed Kieleweke termed a meeting of individuals rather than of the party.

“As Jubilee Party, we have procedures that must be followed before convening a meeting and that was not done,” said Kieni MP Kanini Kega.

In the Senate, Majority Whip Susan Kihika is not reading from the same script as Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang’ata on the BBI. Mr Kang’ata, an ally of President Kenyatta, supports the BBI and is among four senators who met with ODM leader Raila Odinga last week to plan the upcoming BBI meeting in Central region. The others were Ephraim Maina (Nyeri), Paul Githiomi (Nyandarua) and Isaac Mwaura (nominated).


Mr Kang’ata criticised the Naivasha retreat, where a decision was reached to start parallel BBI meetings, saying the MPs were just playing politics.

“We are not part of the Nakuru group,” Mr Kanga’ata said.

He, however, exuded confidence that nothing will derail President Kenyatta’s agenda in the House.

“The divisions in the Jubilee leadership in Parliament do not matter. As long as the agenda of the President passes, that is it. The handshake has given him more passionate parliamentarians. (Kiambu Governor Ferdinand) Waititu’s impeachment has demonstrated who has the numbers in Parliament,” Mr Kanga’ta said.

The Nation has learnt that the party has called for a consultative meeting at the Kenya School of Government on Friday to discuss issues of “concern and interest” to the party. All Jubilee members in both Houses have been invited.

The meeting was initially scheduled for February 7, but it was postponed after the death of former president Daniel Moi.


Two weeks ago, MPs allied to the DP -- Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria and Ms Kihika -- were blocked from entering the Rift Valley regional headquarters, where President Kenyatta had a function, with the General Service Unit officers citing “orders from above”.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, a staunch ally of Dr Ruto, is in the forefront of the plan for parallel meetings organised by the Tangatanga faction but his deputy, Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dulo, has been gravitating towards the faction that supports President Kenyatta.

While Mr Duale has been cautious over the heightened BBI politics, his deputy Jimmy Angwenyi is fully behind President Kenyatta.


It is also clear that the sharp divisions have also crept into the party's secretariat, as Deputy Secretary Caleb Kositany (Soi MP) has, on many occasions, contradicted the Secretary-General Raphael Tuju.

For instance, while Mr Tuju dismissed the Naivasha meeting saying it was not sanctioned by the party, Mr Kositany said it was organised by like-minded legislators from across the political divide.

“Tuju should know that the MPs who attended the Naivasha retreat were representing 6.9 million voters. He should stop treating them as joyriders as they have the numbers,” Mr Kositany said.

Sources say the rebels in the Tangatanga brigade who hold Parliamentary positions are likely to be shown the door when the House resumes its sittings and replaced with those loyal to the President. President Kenyatta is reportedly unhappy with some of the House leaders and committee chairs, whose public actions and pronouncements have cast them as government critics.

Those targeted are Mr Murkomen, Kimani Ichung’wa (Budget and Appropriation) and Whips Benjamin Washiali, Cecily Mbarire and Ms Kihika.