BBI proposes prime minister post, single-term presidency

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 00:00 | By
Former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura. Photo/Courtesy

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposes a three-tier structure of government comprising 14-regional governments and a parliamentary system in a raft of recommendations that are likely to shake the political landscape.

In the draft proposal seen by People Daily, the BBI team seeks to overhaul the current system of governance by introducing a seven-year, non-renewable term for the president, election of regional prime ministers and making the Senate the upper House of the bicameral Parliament.

And in what could open a new political battlefront, the BBI team recommends creation position of prime minister and deputy prime minister, saying it would address the cut-throat competition in presidential elections. 

Born of the March 9, 2018 Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, the BBI also seeks to reduce the number of senators and MPs from 67 to 29 and 349 to 180 respectively, to address overrepresentation. 

Yesterday, BBI joint secretary Paul Mwangi declined to confirm whether these were part of their recommendations, saying the oath they took bars them from discussing contents of the report in public. 

“The report is ready but we’re bound by the oath from discussing it. Let’s wait for the President to make it public,” he said. 

Mwangi, however, confirmed that the BBI team had been asked to be on standby to hand over the report to Uhuru and Raila any time.

Bomas Draft

Sources told People Daily that members of the BBI team are in Mombasa, ready to present the report to the two leaders. 

The team comprises Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji (chairman),  Adams Oloo (vice chair), Agnes Kavindu, Senator Amos Wako, Florence Omosa, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, Major John Seii, Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Maison Leshomo, Morompi ole Ronkai,  Bishop Peter Njenga, Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museu and Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth.

The BBI report appears to borrow heavily from the 2004 Bomas Draft which was watered down by the then Attorney General Wako and renamed Kilifi Draft, a version that was defeated in the 2005 referendum. 

Deputy President William Ruto has already expressed reservations about the BBI report, saying Kenyans will oppose any move to create more positions in government. The DPP has heightened his campaigns against BBI, telling off leaders allegedly threatening those opposed to it that they “would be swept away by a political tsunami”, in apparent reference to Raila.

Speaking at Chepsire Technical Training Institute in Elgeyo Marakwet County during its official opening, Ruto said Constitution amendments can only be successfully if agreed upon by all Kenyans.

 “Some self-centred people think they can con Kenyans, but we are not fools,” he said, without elaborating. 

The DP said when the report is released, Kenyans will have an opportunity to interrogate its recommendations. 

“We want to build bridges of friendship, cohesion and unity. Nobody was invited into this country.  We are all bona fide inhabitants and as such we need to ensure we preserve that togetherness,” he said.

But Uhuru has said there are no two ways about BBI, putting him on a collision course with his deputy. 

“The ushering in of the “Building Bridges to New Kenyan Nation Initiative has been informed in one part by the painful reality of Kenya’s electoral system which, every electoral cycle, precipitates deadly violence which has led to loss of lives and destruction of property, and in another part, by the need to pursue with more vigour, Kenya’s elusive ‘Nationhood Project’,” it says. 

“It has been observed that all Kenyan elections where there has been a serious competitor facing an incumbent president have ended in violence. This is true of the 1992, 1997, 2007 and the 2017 elections,” the report adds. 

It adds that the 2017 violence and the resultant deaths, including those of children, use of rape against women as a weapon of war and destruction of property was a blot on the integrity and dignity of Kenya’s sovereignty. 

“This happened in spite of Kenya having adopted a fairly progressive Constitution that guarantees sanctity of life, civil liberties and protection of property,” the BBI says, as it lays the ground for a constitution review.

The BBI, which was later transformed to the Unity Advisory Taskforce, has come up with nine key issues, which according to the team, have prevented the country from attaining development and nationhood. 

Some of the issues include corruption, ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, lack of inclusivity, issues affecting devolution, divisive elections and national security. 

Others are shared prosperity, responsibilities and rights. 

In summary, the report notes is that if we can end tribalism, corruption, impunity and electoral theft, nepotism and politically-motivated development and employment, the glass ceiling will be broken for all Kenyans to realise their full potential.

“This will lead to the forging of a united, just and prosperous Kenyan nation,” says the report.

People’s President

The Handshake between Uhuru and Raila caught many, including their key allies, by surprise, particularly coming hot on the heals of their dispute over 2017 presidential election which saw the opposition leader take a mock oath as the “People’s President”. 

The 14-member task force, which went round the country collecting views from Kenyans, also wants The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) and Justice Philip Waki reports implemented in full. 

The report also says all those convicted of corruption and other economic crimes be barred from holding (or seeking) public positions, adding that they should also be barred from doing business with government or its agencies, as a determent. 

The team also wants the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the National Land Commission (NLC) to be strengthened and have their mandates expanded to make them more effective. 

Other key recommendations include devolving the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and reviewing the law to allow political parties to nominate commissioners to the electoral body. 

They also want recommendations of the Kriegler Commission which investigated the 2007 election violence implemented in full. 

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