Building Bridges Initiative, 2022 politics to define new year

Friday, December 27th, 2019 00:00 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left), with his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI taskforce chairman Yusuf Haji during the launch of the BBI report at Nairobi’s Bomas of Kenya. Photo/PD/FILE

Hillary Mageka, Fred Aminga and Zadock Angira 

The year 2020 will be a defining moment for Kenya, with a possible referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce report proposals amid jostling  for 2022 presidential election.

It is also the year that could see major political re-alignments with key players  out to consolidate their bases as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession gathers momentum.

Equally, the implementation of the BBI report which, among other things, proposes creation of an office of the prime minister will be a major litmus test for the now shaky political marriage between Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto.

“The BBI report will dramatically change the way the country is governed. It will be a major conversation in the coming year.

The President might also be forced to declare his preferred choice to succeed him and that has serious ramifications,” said Prof Ken Onkware of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

The country is expected to witness the divisive delimitation of electoral boundaries and reforms that could see disbandment of the electoral commission as proposed by Senator Yusuf Haji-led team. 

Also, eyes will be on Central Kenya which is expected to identify a leader to replace  Uhuru  as the region kingpin.

It will also be a major test for a divided main political outfits Jubilee Party and ODM, with the latter having indicated it will hold its national elections in April 2020.

Fate of BBI

In the expected realignments and reorganisation of governance structures, there will be political beneficiaries and casualties—some political careers may be made or broken ahead of the 2022 General Election.

IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati with commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu. The  poll agency will be undertaking delimitation of electoral boundaries  in 2020.
BELOW: Interior PS Karanja Kibicho.  Photo/PD/FILE

One of those in the heart of the events that will shape the year’s political directions is Ruto. On  Monday, he  said he does not mind if the constitutional change will settle for a parliamentary or presidential system of government.

Speaking in Vihiga county, the DP said as long as it is Kenyans who will decide the fate of the BBI report, he will have no problem. However, he warned that any boardroom decisions would fail.

 “On BBI we agreed, I don’t want to oppose anything, If they want parliamentary system, presidential system or whatever name it will be called, so long as the people decide, it is fine,”said Ruto during the Mumboha Hustlers Cup in Luanda.

He said he was comfortable with contents or the BBI report and would not oppose anything that was pro-people.

On his part, ODM party leader Raila Odinga in his Christmas message asked Kenyans to engage in a robust debate on the BBI report going into in the New Year.

While rallying Kenyans behind the initiative, he said he was not opposed to the BBI report being implemented through a parliamentary route or referendum as long as the recommendations will benefit the people.

“From next year, we will have a robust debate on BBI recommendations. They are not cast on stone. We will be open to any proposal so that what is implemented is agreeable to all,” he said.

The ODM chief clarified that the birth of the BBI was an attempt by the country’s leadership to respond to the challenges facing the nation.

On security matters, the agencies are anticipating a relatively calm year thanks to March 9, 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila.

Political demonstrations

In the heightened political environment, the police service are sometimes overstretched in terms of personnel and resources.

On some extreme levels, police officers are forced to use excessive force to disperse political demonstrations organised by opposition parties and civil society. And this outcome puts the service on the spot over its conduct and human rights record.

Last week, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, while attending the end-year party at Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters, revealed the government’s dilemma in the contested 2017 presidential poll. 

He said the police service is now saving millions of shillings due to the relative peace experienced in the country after handshake. He also appealed to Kenyans to support the BBI.

Kibicho said cost of police operations especially in handling riots and demonstrations had substantially reduced in the last one year, adding that the funds were now used in other policing matters.

 “We used to spend millions of shillings on police operations before. That money is now put in good use to secure the country,” he said. 

The PS admitted the country was on the verge of civil war shortly before the handshake.

The economy has been the focus of attention because of its poor performance last year. 

This is why the captains of industry are, too, hoping for good fortunes after an excruciating 2019, where they experience worst economic tides. Speaking to People Daily on phone, Kenya Airways (KQ) board chair and Safaricom acting chief executive Michael Joseph, said: “I am cautiously optimistic of the economy going forward,” outlining his view of 2020, after an eventful year at both listed firms.

Going into 2020, Joseph will also oversee the power shift at KQ’s and Safaricom’s corner office, where new chief executives take charge in 2020. 

More importantly, he says he will worry about the national carrier’s financial situation after maintaining during the year that the struggling airline requires about $450 million (Sh45 billion) to get on the recovery path.

According to Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) outlook report for 2020, the sector promises a strong year, specifically if predictable and stable business environment can be guaranteed in policy formulation and implementation.

“Expect to see more industries take up technology, especially e-commerce. This is a large but untapped market that gives more market access at minimal costs.

It will enable businesses, particularly SMEs, to lower costs, stay competitive and at the same time, go global by harnessing the power of the Internet and scale,” said KAM chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga.

Nevertheless, the National Treasury bid to tackle rising debt by curtailing it through a ceiling, exercise in futility unless it is accompanied by budget reforms and transparency of external debt.

Through the amendments to the Public Finance Management (National Government) Regulations of 2015, a change in the public debt limit changed from 50 per cent of GDP in net present value terms to Sh9 trillion ($87 billion).

Treasury pushed for an increase of the public debt ceiling giving more headroom for borrowing in a bid to retire current expensive loans that hit $58.1 billion (Sh5.9 trillion) by end June, from $15.5 billion (Sh1.6 trillion) same period in 2012.

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