BBI report awaits Uhuru return as curtains fall on task force

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 00:00 | By
Building Bridges Initiative chief administrator ambassador Stephen Karau addresses an advisory task-force consultative meeting with other stakeholders at KICC, Nairobi. PD/COURTESY

 By Noah Cheploen and Anthony Mwangi 

Focus has now shifted to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga after curtains fell on the 14-member Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force set up last year. 

The BBI mandate ended yesterday with a section of MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto, who have been critical of the project, appearing to soften their stand, promising to back the recommendations “if they advanced reforms that would better the lives of Kenyans”.

Speaking in Sekenani, Narok county, the leaders said the report should give priority to the interests of all Kenyans as opposed to those of politicians. Ruto was present at the meeting.

The BBI team, which was chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, yesterday sought to assure Kenyans that their report was ready and they were waiting for an appointment to present it to the President and Raila. 

However, the task force faces the ignominy of presenting its report after the end of their mandate because President Uhuru is currently in Sochi, Russia, for the Russia-Africa Summit. More than 50 African leaders are attending. 

In establishing the BBI, Uhuru and Raila gave the team, comprising veteran politicians, lawyers and the clergy a nine-point agenda which they believe will unlock the country’s potential and end the five-year election-based cycle of violence.

No money

And as the BBI term came to a close at midnight, the National Treasury said no money had been set aside for a possible referendum as had been widely speculated. Chief Administrative Secretary Nelson Gaichuhie said although they will make money available if asked to do so, there was no such provision in the current budget.

“There is no budget item known as referendum money in our papers, what we had was money for Census which is now behind us,” he said.

In a statement, the BBI team reiterated that they held their last formal sitting yesterday to make a final assessment of the report. “The Task Force has the privilege to inform Kenyans that this important initiative has been completed,” they said.

The joint secretaries have officially communicated to the Office of the President that the BBI report is ready for handing over to the President. 

“We have received word that the event will be scheduled at the first available opportunity,” the statement added.

The statement signed by Paul Mwangi and Martin Kimani — the joint secretaries — noted that Kenyans are looking forward to “positive and far-reaching changes”, adding that the country should grab this opportunity with both hands.

“We should utilise this auspicious moment to build the bonds between us that will become a strong foundation for an inclusive, fair and prosperous nation,” the officials said.

The report is expected to tilt the political landscape particularly coming at a time when the Uhuru succession politics is gaining momentum.

Members of the team included Adams Oloo, Agnes Kavindu, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Florence Omosa, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, Major John Seii, and Bishop Lawi Imathiu. Others were Maison Leshomo, Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Rose Moseu, and Archbishop Zacheaus Okoth.

The team was unveiled days after the famous March 9, 2018 Handshake between the once bitter political rivals on the steps of Harambee House, Nairobi. 

The BBI agenda included ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility. The team went round the country collecting views from individuals and groups before retreating to compile the report.

Ironically, the emergence of the BBI widened the cracks in Uhuru’s Jubilee Party while emboldening Raila’s support base. 

Although Ruto has occasionally thrown well calculated jabs at the BBI, his allies such as Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Kandara MP Alice Wahome and her Bahati counterpart Kimani Ngunjiri, have openly opposed it. 

Yesterday, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, one of  Ruto’s close allies, said BBI was founded on the wrong premise and, therefore, he cannot support. “I have a problem with its composition and how it was established,” he said. 

 Raila has hinted that BBI would introduce a parliamentary system of governance and create a position of Prime Minister.

Although Raila and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (who is also the ODM deputy party leader) used the Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa to drum up support for BBI, Uhuru and Ruto avoided the topic. 

BBI official Mwangi told the People Daily on phone that “we have a good report and everything is ready”, adding that the ongoing public debate shows that Kenyans were keenly following their work.

No problem

Yesterday, some of Ruto’s political allies said they would have no problem with the BBI report “if its intentions are noble and of benefit to the people”.

They included Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, MPs Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Johanna Ng’eno (Emurua Dikirr), Patrick Munene (Chuka/Igamba Ng’ombe), Soipan Tuya (Narok County), Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Nelson Koech (Belgut).

Koech said they would not entertain a proposal whose sole purpose was to create executive positions for a few individuals.

“We do not have a problem with BBI as it is just a report that would be presented to us. However, if it is about the creation of positions in government, we will reject it,” he said.

 Kositany said Kenyans would “thoroughly evaluate” the report and take a position on its content.

Munene said Kenyans were waiting for the report to find out what is in it for them. 

On her part, Soipan said it would be unfortunate if the BBI recommended changes that would only benefit politicians. 

She said no amount of intimidation would stop them from advocating interests of the people they represent. 

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