President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are crafting a roadmap for the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report days after its launch at the Bomas of Kenya.
The two leaders, the Sunday Nation has learnt, are almost closing ranks on a proposal that a committee of experts fine-tunes the document before setting the stage for its full implementation.
A highly-placed source revealed that the two leaders have agreed on the names of the committee of experts, which is likely to be unveiled either before the end of the year or in early January.
“Both President [Uhuru] Kenyatta and Mr Odinga agreed on the list early this week,” said the source who requested anonymity as he is not authorised to divulge information on the matter.
The two leaders have discussed the mode of implementation of the report at length and ruled out a pure parliamentary route.
The details emerged during a meeting between Mr Odinga and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, a key figure of the BBI drive in Mount Kenya region, at the former prime minister’s Capitol Hill office in Nairobi on Tuesday.
During the meeting, Ms Waiguru disclosed that they also discussed the possibility of implementing the report without going through a rigorous referendum process but avoiding a parliamentary option.
This, she noted, was to avoid confrontational politics with those opposing the drive, but insisted that the people of Kenya will have the final say.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s supporters favour a referendum while deputy President William Ruto’s lieutenants favour a parliamentary initiative, but on Friday they declared they were ready for any process.
After the meeting with Ms Waiguru, Mr Odinga disclosed that the talks were aimed at ensuring inclusivity in the country.
Ms Waiguru later told the Sunday Nation that they would then seek one million signatures from Kenyans to endorse the proposed changes “as the input is developed into a bill and taken to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)”.
“The IEBC will then take it to the county assemblies where we need at least half the counties to pass the bill,” she disclosed.
After approval by at least 24 county assemblies, the proponents of the drive, according to Ms Waiguru, agree that it can then be taken to the National Assembly where the threshold for approval will be attainable, according to Article 257 of the Kenyan Constitution.
“We will only need half of MPs to pass it. That way, a referendum will not be necessary,” she added.
She however noted that the public will have the final say, giving an indication that their team has not yet ruled out the possibility of a national referendum.
The electoral agency could be headed for a major clash with proponents of the BBI as they plan to collect at least one million signatures to push for constitutional changes.
It is not clear how the IEBC will handle the situation, as the BBI report in its current form recommends the removal of its current three commissioners.
The Building Bridges for National Unity Advisory Task Force said the overhaul is necessary because the current team does not enjoy public confidence.
On the March 9, 2018, a joint statement by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the two leaders pledged to end the culture of divisive elections by, among others, reforming the IEBC.
Political pundits have already cautioned that the BBI proponents must be cautious with the route they want to take to implement the recommendations in the report as the electoral agency could as well “frustrate their move”.
Sources within President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s inner circles told the Sunday Nation that the Head of State was determined to implement proposals of the BBI document through a popular initiative and wants a referendum by mid-next year.
“The President is more serious about this than Mr Odinga. He wants to complete the process by April next year while Mr Odinga wants a referendum a bit later,” said the source.
This comes after National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said taxpayers’ money would not be used to sponsor a parliamentary committee retreat to discuss the contents of the BBI report.
This comes as a big blow to the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) that had earlier expressed hopes of a retreat in Mombasa to discuss the document.
Mr Muturi maintained his earlier stand that the BBI report in its current form cannot be brought to Parliament and the house has no role in it.
He however encouraged MPs to read the report and understand its content. “I want to assure you that no public money will be used by any committee to discuss the report. However, committees can retreat and discuss the report but at their own expense,” Mr Muturi said.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi had sought the Speaker’s direction on whether it was prudent to waste taxpayers’ money by a committee to discuss a report that is not before the house.
SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE
This comes as CIOC chairman Jeremiah Kioni and his Justice and Legal Affairs counterpart William Cheptumo urged Kenyans not to focus on the method of implementation of the BBI report.
Addressing the press separately at Parliament Buildings, Mr Cheptumo said the method of implementing BBI is threatening to divide the country instead of uniting the country as envisaged.
“Let us reduce competitiveness and the perception created to suggest that there are enemies of the document. Let us all agree on how to implement the report in a manner that unites the country,” Mr Cheptumo said.
Mr Kioni on his part called on politicians to stop being suspicious of each other over the mode of implementation.
He said the plan by the committee to retreat to Mombasa was not to write a parallel report but to discuss each proposal in detail.
He said 70 per cent of the recommendations of the report can be implemented through Parliament while only 30 per cent needs to be subjected to a referendum.
He called for a bipartisan approach in the discussions. Since its release last week, the report has heightened political temperatures and threatened to split the country.
On Friday, DP Ruto’s lieutenants, after a two-day retreat in Naivasha, pledged to support the implementation of the report either through a parliamentary initiative or a referendum.
Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi had vowed to reject the report, saying it had failed to suggest ways of achieving economic recovery.
He has however attracted a barrage of criticisms for opposing the document when he failed to give his views during the public participation stage, critics said.
ANC nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi and Vihiga Governor Wilbur Ottichilo were the only leaders from Mr Mudavadi’s Vihiga backyard who presented their views to the BBI team when it was in the county.
“Mudavadi is not sincere about the BBI report because if he was, he could have given his views and the task force could have considered them in their final document,” Mr Osotsi said.
As the BBI team begins the journey to collect one million signatures, political observers say they need to be cautious to avoid the predicament that met Mr Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy’s (Cord) push to change the Constitution through its Okoa Kenya initiative in 2016.
In 2016, the Okoa Kenya initiative collapsed after the IEBC ruled that the sponsors had failed to get the requisite one million signatures.
The commission declared that only 891,598 signatures out of the 1.6 million submitted by Cord were authentic.
The Constitution can only be changed through a referendum if it is backed by at least one million registered voters.
Despite BBI’s proposal to remove the IEBC commissioners, chairman Wafula Chebukati has dismissed the recommendations, insisting that the current team will oversee the next General Election.
Speaking during the 6th Annual Continental Forum of Election Management Bodies last Week, Mr Chebukati said the remaining commissioners’ contracts will run until 2023.
The current team has been operating with the minimum number of three commissioners, one year after their colleagues Connie Maina, Margaret Mwachanya, Paul Kurgat and Roselyn Akombe resigned, leaving only the chairman, Mr Chebukati, Prof Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu to run the electoral agency.