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Focus shifts to collection of 1m signatures

By People Team
Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and his Senate counterpart Irungu Kang’ata at a recent press briefing. Photo/PD/File
In summary
    • The report proposes radical constitutional reforms that could alter the structure of the Executive by creating the position of Prime Minister with two deputies.
    • It  also proposes the increase of county allocation from 15 to 35 per cent; establishment of a ward development fund; a seven-year tax holiday for small businesses.
    • It roots for a commission for youths and health workers; more seats for women and a four-year grace period for Helb beneficiaries.

Politicians allied to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) have turned their focus on collecting one million signatures to push through the report.

A number of leaders supporting the document told People Daily that they would now embark on countrywide campaigns to popularise it and ensure they collect the signatures to enable the document to be taken to county assemblies.

The Minority Leader in the National Assembly John Mbadi, said the pro-BBI report team was waiting for the State Law Office to publish the final Bills so that they could start collecting signatures.

“We are now waiting for this project to be put into perspective, I know the steering committee came up with proposed Bills, this will be taken to the State Law Office for publication after which we will start the process of collecting signatures,” he said.

Informal conversations

Kieni MP Kanini Kega echoed Mbadi’s sentiments, saying their main focus was now on the collection of one million signatures for onward transmission to the assemblies.

For a constitutional amendment Bill to pass, it must have the backing of at least 24 county assemblies.

“Informal conversations will happen, but we give it up to the people who came up with the document because they gave all of us a chance to air our views including the Deputy President and so we are not going back there. Our next phase is to collect one million signatures and to seek the support of 24 county assemblies,” he said.

At the same time, politicians supporting the BBI were yesterday said to be engaged in a series of meetings to agree on a roadmap to the referendum.

Sources told People Daily the caucuses started soon after the Bomas meeting on Monday when a group allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga converged at Safari Park Hotel to discuss the way forward.

Yesterday, Minority Whip in the National Assembly Junet Mohamed said he was attending a meeting to plan a series of events to popularise the document among Kenyans in the coming days.

“We are in a meeting to basically plan events and activities to follow after yesterday’s BBI launch,” he said without giving details.  

National Assembly Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya disclosed that Parliament was already in the process of implementing sections of the report that do not have to go through a referendum.

He said MPs will have a big say in the final Constitutional amendment Bill before it is subjected to a public vote.

 “We are waiting for people to read what was launched before it is translated to a constitutional amendment bill, which will come to Parliament and also go to Kenyans to have a look at it. But between now and then our role is to just read,” he said.

He explained there were some pieces of legislation that are already before the National Assembly, some of whose provisions will be incorporated in the BBI report before they can pass them.

The proposals, he said, include amendments to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) by Nominated MP Gideon Keter, which will be harmonised with recommendations of the BBI report on the same.

In the Bill, Keter is seeking to have the interest charged on HELB loans reduced from the current 4 per cent to 2 per cent, while on the other hand the BBI report is recommending that those who clear university are given a four-year grace period before they start repaying their loans.

The other piece of legislation MPs will seek to harmonise with the BBI report is the one proposing amendments to the Judicial Service Act currently before the Justice and Legal Affairs committee chaired by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano, that seeks to kick start the recruitment of a new Chief Justice.

According to Kimunya, Parliament will use the Bill to anchor some of the BBI proposals touching on reforms in the Judiciary.

“BBI has done its bit and everyone must do theirs, some of the proposals will pick from what we have; others will run parallel to the Constitution making process while others will only be passed once we okay the amendments to the Constitution,” he said.

Speaking separately, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a “structured committee” to make final recommendations on issues raised over the BBI

He said since the President said there is a window for presentation of final submissions to be considered once Kenyans read and understand the report by the steering committee, it will be key for other views to be accommodated before legislation begins ahead of a referendum next year.

The ANC leader said incorporating the final views will help rally Kenyans together, a move that will give directions on how Kenyans will vote for the final report.

Mudavadi, who was meeting members of the Kenya National Council of Elders under the leadership of their patron, Captain Kung’u Muigai and chairman Phares Rutere, asked political leaders to rally together for the sake of the nation especially on reviving the economy.

The leaders had earlier met Deputy President William Ruto to discuss the way forward after the Bomas event. 

Head of BBI Secretariat Paul Mwangi said the next step would be the constitution of several institutions to prepare the referendum Bill.

“It is now upon the implementing bodies to put in place institutions to prepare the referendum Bill,” he said.

There were murmurs mainly from the DP’s corner that the official launch of the report did not take place after Ruto, who spoke before inviting President Kenyatta to speak, muddied the waters by poking holes into the document.

It had been expected that the report would be officially launched once the President finished his speech, but this did not happen as Uhuru put aside his official speech to respond to Ruto’s concerns over the report.

Said Ruto’s deputy communications director Emmanuel Talam; “Was the BBI report finally launched, sorry, I’m a slow learner na tuko wengi.”

Ruto, who was roundly jeered by a section of the Bomas delegates, faulted the proposed expansion of the Executive, saying it does not address the winner-take-all system.

Speakers at the forum pushed for a compromise to ensure an “uncontested referendum” but that seems highly unlikely given Ruto’s tough demands.

Ruto appeared in many ways the “unwanted guest’’ having criticised the BBI at the weekend saying it was meant to create jobs for a “few big boys”.

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