Journey to change 2010 Constitution begins at Bomas

By People Team
Monday, October 26th, 2020
Copies of the BBI report delivered at the Bomas of Kenya ahead of today’s launch. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude
In summary
    • Building Bridges Initiative vice-chairman Adams Oloo says the document would land in Parliament from county assemblies, where a Speaker of either Houses can reject it,  but should it sail through, IEBC would be required to draft the question and organise a referendum.
    • Even if either Houses of Parliament fails to pass the Bill, the proposed amendments shall still be submitted in a referendum.

The process of changing the Constitution kicks off this morning when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga address more than 5,000 delegates at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, to officially launch the Building Bridges Initiative taskforce report.

Uhuru and Raila are racing against time to ensure the country goes to a referendum by April next year, with a new constitutional dispensation expected to usher in a radical governance structure by August.

Besides setting the ball rolling today, the President is also expected to set the record straight on how the popular initiative to review the Constitution will be funded given that it is not considered a government project or factored in the current budget.

Yesterday, County Commissioners across the country were busy finalising travel arrangements for 70 delegates from each of the 47 counties to the Bomas meeting. 

Also invited to the meeting, besides the opinion leaders being identified and mobilised by the County Commissioners, are all Members of County Assemblies, leaders of major political parties, governors, senators, Members of Parliament (MPs), leaders of lobby groups and civil society.

However, by yesterday, it was not yet clear whether MPs and other leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto, who have voiced their opposition to the BBI report, had been invited.

Even though Ruto has maintained a studious silence on the BBI report content, only insisting the process must be all-inclusive, today’s event is likely to kick off a direct political duel between him and his allies on the one hand, and President Uhuru and Raila on the other.

The vice-chairman of the Steering Committee on Recommendations of the BBI  to a United Kenya Taskforce, Prof Adams Oloo, said Uhuru and Raila are expected to unveil the roadmap for the process expected to be completed by August next year if all goes according to plan.

Four categories

Oloo disclosed they had clustered the implementation process into four categories: Constitutional, statutory, policy and administrative.

“Activities around the administrative, policy and statutory categories will kick off immediately with the national government taking charge of the first two components while Parliament will deal with the third.

Today is the turning point when the two leaders are expected to lay down the roadmap,” Oloo told People Daily by phone yesterday.

During today’s meeting, Oloo said, the two leaders are also expected to unveil a National Coordinating Secretariat to see the process through to the end.

 Sources said some members of the taskforce could be retained in the secretariat.

While the secretariat will be charged with driving the popular initiative to change the Constitution, the President is expected to unveil an inter-ministerial team to oversee implementation of changes requiring policy, administrative and legislative aspects.

Constitutional amendments such as the creation of posts of Prime Minister and two deputies as well as the Leader of Official Opposition in Parliament, proposals to increase the amount of devolved funds from the current 15 to 35 per cent of the national revenue, creation of the Independent Policing Oversight Commission and the merger of the Kenya Police Service and Administration Police Service into the National Police Service, will go through a referendum.

Sources at State House said the President is determined to ensure the country amends the Constitution before the 2022 General Election in a bid to end “senseless cycles of violence” that have plagued elections for the past two decades.

Other matters that will require a referendum are those touching on national values and principles of governance, the term of office of the President, the independence of the Judiciary, the functions of Parliament and the objects, principles and structure of devolved governments.

“The race begins today when the President and Raila unveil the roadmap. From there the national government and Parliament will immediately embark on implementing issues they are required to handle,” Paul Mwangi, one of the joint secretaries of the taskforce said.

“The President made it clear to us when he met the parliamentary leadership two weeks ago that we should mobilise our troops in the two Houses in readiness for the drafted bills.

As MPs, we are ready for the exercise,” National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi said.  

Though Mbadi denied knowledge of the existence of a draft bill on the proposed legislation, independent sources intimated that several bills to amend various laws had been drafted in readiness for tabling in Parliament.

Tentative roadmap

According to a tentative roadmap, once the document is unveiled today, the secretariat would immediately embark on sensitisation and discussion workshops and forums across the country.

Elected leaders, civil society groups, religious leaders, county administrators and various lobby groups, the source disclosed, would conduct these forums.

To ease implementation of the process, the secretariat is expected to cluster the country into 13 zones: Coast, North Rift, Central Rift, South Rift, Mt Kenya East, Mt Kenya West, Lower Eastern, Upper Eastern, North Eastern, Nyanza 1, Nyanza 2, Western and Nairobi.

Opinion is still divided among the strategists on whether to identify some local politicians to spearhead the campaigns in their respective regions, or have the entire process propelled by the secretariat with Uhuru and Raila playing the pivotal role.

Another thorny issue yet to be agreed upon are the roles to be played by governors and county commissioners. 

The secretariat would organise meetings in various constituencies and counties of people ranging between 300 and 500.

“The first phase of the process is to sensitise as many people as possible on the document, using meetings, workshops and barazas,” Oloo said.

After the sensitisation campaign, which is expected to run for a month, the secretariat will isolate and consolidate key areas and start collecting a million signatures from Kenyans of voting age, before presenting the same to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for verification and authentication.

Once IEBC is satisfied with the signatures, it would be the turn for MCAs to steer the process since the law requires proponents of the document to get support from at least 24 counties for it to progress to the next stage.

“We are going to use lessons learnt from Third Way Alliance’s Punguza Mizigo Initiative of 2018 to drive this process,” a State official intimated.

From the county assemblies, the document would land in Parliament, a stage that Prof Oloo describes as “a clearing centre”.

“Like in the case of Dr Ekuro Aukot’s initiative, a Speaker of either of the Houses can reject the document, but should it sail through, IEBC would be required to draft the question and organise a referendum. 

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