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Why Ruto faces Herculean task in opposing BBI report

By Emeka Mayaka
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Deputy President William Ruto. Photo/DPPS
In summary

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Deputy President  (DP) William Ruto is likely to face an uphill task when he launches campaigns against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), because of the incentives given to key groups that could determine its success in a referendum.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga set the ball rolling yesterday, when they listed some of the goodies in the document they unveiled in Kisii on Wednesday, that observers say could make it difficult for Ruto to persuade key constituencies against the project.

Among others, the BBI report proposes an increase of county funds allocation from the current 15 to 35 per cent, establishment of a Ward Development Fund, a seven-year tax holiday for small businesses — what Ruto calls hustlers — a commission for the youth and another for health workers, more seats for women and a four-year grace period for beneficiaries of the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

The report also proposes an expanded Executive to create the position of prime minister and two deputies that, observer say, would ensure inclusion and make it is easier for coalition building during elections.

Irrational mistakes

The observers say it would be an onerous task for the DP and his allies, who have voiced opposition to the initiative to make a case against increased allocation of resources to counties, as well as youth and women’s empowerment.

According to Senior Counsel Nzamba Kitonga, who chaired the committee of experts that drafted the 2010 Constitution, the BBI proposals “provide a remedy” to what he described as “irrational mistakes” committed by MPs in Naivasha who tinkered with the Harmonised Draft they had handed to them.

“The BBI is a good document and an improvement on the Constitution. It carries proposals which were contained in the Harmonised Draft which was ‘mutilated’ in Naivasha.

We had proposed the position of Prime Minister, two deputies and ministers; to be picked from both in and out of Parliament to ensure inclusiveness in governance.

The decision by MPs to remove the provisions was irrational,” Kitonga said yesterday.

He was referring to the 2010 caucus by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution which is blamed for altering the Harmonised Draft, to come up with a hybrid system and structure of Senate that has been largely been criticised as weak and ineffective. 

“I support the BBI document because it attempts to provide remedial actions for the areas that were mutilated in Naivasha.

There is no imperial presidency, because Parliament still retains strong checks and balances.

He cannot fire the DP because they are tied together as siamese twins but can sack a Prime  Minister whose role is to assist in daily administration of government,” Kitonga said.

Despite participating in the January 2010 Naivasha talks, Ruto made an about-turn and teamed up with evangelicals and campaigned against the document during the referendum, arguing that it provided for abortion by choice and gay relationships.

Already, the DP who was absent from the Kisii BBI unveiling event, has warned that the country must have “a robust conversation” about the proposals, saying they were calculated to create positions for “a few big boys”.

“Do you want the country to discuss about positions for individuals and tribes or about mama mboga, the wheelbarrow man?” he asked at a funeral on Wednesday as Uhuru and Raila rallied support for the initiative born out of their March 2018 Handshake.

Addressing gatherings in Kisumu County yesterday, the President and Raila left no doubt they will cite the many incentives in the BBI report, especially enhanced resource allocation to counties and youth and women’s empowerment to rally the country behind the proposals that could lead to constitutional amendments through Parliament and eventually a referendum. 

“Is there anything wrong in dispersing more cash to counties and setting up a ward fund for representatives so that they help you pay school fees for your children?” asked Uhuru.

“What is wrong with allowing young university graduates to obtain a job before being asked to pay their loans? Is there anything wrong about a tax holiday for a young entrepreneur or coming up with ways of implementing the two thirds gender rule because the current framework has failed?” 

Chief Justice David Maraga has advised the President to dissolve the two Houses of Parliament as a punishment for their failure to pass legislation to implement the two-thirds gender rule.

The fate of MPs lies in the hands of a five-judge-bench set up to hear petitions against the advisory.

 To cure the problem, the BBI report has suggested that every county, elects a man and a woman to the Senate, while it has proposed more seats for women in the National Assembly by allowing particular constituencies to elect more than one lawmaker.

“The proposal for election of women senators in every county and in the National Assembly, empowers women and solves the gender rule challenge once and for all,” said Kitonga.

But some of Ruto’s allies yesterday indicated they will oppose the document over what they described as a bloated and expensive legislature, creation of jobs for certain tribes and an argument that the proposed increased allocation of funds to counties was untenable.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany, a close ally of the DP, said he was opposed to the tinkering of the Executive.

“We have always said that BBI was aimed at creating positions for individuals at the top.

It has created an imperial President who can sack his prime minister. It does not address the issue of the winner-take-all as the principals had claimed.

They have scrapped the nomination of people from disability,” he told People Daily. 

“The proposal to take 35 per cent of revenue to the counties is untenable unless we want to shut down some functions by the national government. The Kenyan economy cannot sustain such kind of allocation,” he added.

“They have overburdened taxpayers by raising the number of senators to 94. America with all its millions of people has only 100 senators.

There should have been an express provision to scrap Senate instead of killing devolution through a weak and bloated Senate.”

His Keiyo South counterpart Daniel Rono, also signalled that they will wage war against the BBI report.

“We will not support it if makes proposals that will burden the economy. We will also insist that issues raised must be handled administratively and through Parliament.

We will not accept a referendum because it is unnecessary and burdensome,” he said. 

Among other things, the BBI report which will be launched officially at the historic Bomas of Kenya on Monday, proposes a Ward Development Fund, bars civil servants from doubling in business and proposes implementation of reports of important probe teams such as the Ndung’u  Land Commission and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

 Implementation of the reports would be a major boost for communities especially in the Coast and in Maasai nation that have been demanding that land issues be addressed.

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