Let Kenyans decide fate of Building Bridges Initiative, says Raila
Irene Githinji and Mercy Mwai
A day after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report was released for public debate, battle lines are already being drawn over who should spearhead its implementation.
Yesterday, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga, appeared to rally his troops when he categorically stated that the BBI report will not be taken to Parliament for implementation, saying it will remain with the people.
“On Wednesday, I said a lot of things about BBI and where we have come from and why BBI, and I meant everything I said.
I also said that this process must be people owned, it will not be taken to Parliament, it will remain with the people to the end... it is the people who will decide what to do with that report,” Raila said while launching the new ODM party headquarters in Nairobi, yesterday.
He immediately received support from more than 25 legislators, who want the report subjected to a referendum and not a parliamentary process.
Raila spoke a day after Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, both staunch supporters of Deputy President William Ruto, said Parliament was the legal platform to implement the BBI proposals.
Their views appeared to reinforce Ruto’s sentiments during the launch of the report on reforms at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, on Wednesday, when he rooted for consensus to avoid a potentially divisive and costly process.
“We must make sure that this document speaks to the majority of Kenyans; their fears, challenges and aspirations. We should avoid the costly and potentially divisive process that will tear us further,” he said.
And tweeting after the launch, Kuria said: “We will pass this thing overwhelmingly in Parliament. Put the question. Why cost the tax-payer billions and yet we have agreed to pass it? I can understand the disappointment of tsunami avoiding our political shores. Referendum was a 2022 dress rehearsal.”
In an interview with our sister station, K24 TV, Murkomen, who is the Senate Majority Leader, said they are happy with the document because it reflects the will of the people.
“If we must go for a referendum, it must be a non-contemptuous referendum because if this is the BBI report and everybody is saying it’s a fantastic thing, then even if you subject it to a referendum, it should be a referendum where there will be no opponent.
It’s just a formality to get to the end because the Constitution says you must pass it through a referendum,” he said.
“But instead of taking Kenyans through wastage of Sh20-30 billion through a referendum, it would be easier to go through Parliament which represents the people of Kenya,” he said.
Last week, Raila had likened the BBI report to a tsunami and warned that those opposed to its recommendations will be swept away.
Yesterday, the ODM leader who together with President Uhuru Kenyatta set up the BBI team after their March 9, 2018 Handshake, appeared to kick-start public debate on the report, when he called for the need to retreat, take a critical analysis of the report, and find out how it can be best implemented.
“We are now in the process of implementing that report… you have seen things like a membership drive are contained in that report and important things on how we should conduct our elections.
For instance, we are in the process of preparing for party elections some time next year and end up with a national delegates convention to elect national officials. We want our members to prepare for this,” Raila told party officials and supporters present.
His sentiments were echoed by ODM chairman John Mbadi and his deputy Hassan Joho, who both trashed proposals to have the report taken to Parliament.
Mbadi said it is not possible to take the Parliament route, saying that would require a constitutional amendment.
“Let us be real and agree that reforms must be people-driven, Parliament cannot drive this process,” he stated.
Joho told off some MPs who he claimed want to hijack the process by taking the BBI report to Parliament, saying the move would be rejected.
The Orange party leaders spoke as a group of 25 MPs allied to the Kieleweke team that supports the Handshake , and called for the report to be subjected to a referendum and not a parliamentary process.
Speaking at Parliament Buildings, the team urged Uhuru and Raila to form an implementation committee to take over from the BBI team and spearhead the next process.
Led by MPs Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Fatuma Gedi (Wajir county), Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and Godfrey Otosti (nominated), the legislators claimed by allowing Parliament to take over the report, Kenyans will not own the process.
“All further conversations and work on this document should therefore be about how to implement the proposals of the people. We urge all Kenyans to own this report and not allow politicians to try and hijack it,” said Wanga.
At the same time, the legislators, who declared their support for the document, told off their colleagues in the Tanga Tanga team, who claimed they were left out in the programme of the day (Wednesday), saying the entire event was organised by the presidency and not themselves.