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Why Uhuru called off key BBI meeting at the last minute

By Hillary Mageka
Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
Majority Amos Kimunya . Photo/PD/File
In summary
    • Meeting was to coincide with the third anniversary of the President’s Hand-shake deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga that gave birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was expected to come up with a schedule of joint tours.
    • National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya downplayed the claims, saying the President shelved the planned meeting to allow both Houses of Parliament to debate

Forum designed to discuss BBI roadmap suddenly put off due to what many believe is ODM disquiet.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was on Monday, March 8 forced to cancel a scheduled consultative meeting with Members of Parliament (MPs) and County Assemblies leadership to draw the roadmap to the national referendum.

The meeting, which was to coincide with the third anniversary of the President’s Handshake deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga that gave birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was expected to come up with a schedule of joint tours by political leaders in support of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

It was during the meeting that President Kenyatta, Raila and leaders of five major political parties were scheduled to unveil the campaign roadmap for the Bill, expect-ed to be subjected to a public vote by June.

The Bill is currently before the joint House committee of Justice and Legal affairs.

On February 26, the President met with Raila and party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Char-ity Ngilu (NARC), Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi (Kanu) to discuss how to roll out joint countrywide tours to drum up support for the first amendment to the 2010 Constitution.

Joint statement

After the meeting at State House, Nairobi, Moi read a joint statement affirming their commitment to the constitutional changes envisaged in the BBI.

“To this end we shall hold a joint consultative meeting on the March 9, 2021, involving Members of Parliament and counties leadership,” said the statement.

Though reasons for the meeting’s cancellation were not immediately established, PD Online understands the weekend disquiet by Raila’s allies over an alleged plot by some government bureaucrats to craft a 2022 succession plan and taking over the management of the BBI national secretariat could have been the cause.

Sources said this may have forced President Kenyatta’s team to shelve the event to allow the two principals to call their troops to order and focus on the bigger picture.However, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya downplayed the claims, saying the President shelved the planned meeting to allow both Houses of Parliament to debate and pass the BBI Bill.

According to Kimunya, the country’s efforts are now on the collection of public views on the Bill before the joint House committee retreats to write its report.

“It was too early to hold the meeting because we even do not know what kind of information the public will tell the joint committee which will inform the decision of members during the debate,” Kimunya said.

He explained that it was decided that the meeting waits for the completion of the public participation this week.He went on: “It is a coincidence that this week we are having public participation on the BBI Bill.

If it was my making, I would have wished, we would have done it last week so that we start debate on the Bill this week.”“What I am sure of is that we will do the anniversary of the Handshake at a later date but not tomorrow (today).

It will be within the anniversary month,” he added, revealing that Parliament had shelved plans to mark the “Handshake anniversary” due to a packed schedule.

However, Kanu secretary general Nick Salat seemed to let the cat out of the bag when he cited what he termed as “weekend murmurs and sideshows” by Raila’s allies for the cancellation.

Salat observed that the President and the ODM leader had to pause the “reggae” to put their houses in order first, then convene the consultative forum to sell the BBI proposals.

“There have been a lot of murmurs over the weekend and it was important to speak in one voice at the meeting.

As such, it was called off so that the principals and those who support the BBI can put their houses in order,” Salat said.

“The BBI document is beneficial to the country. As Kanu, it should not be a matter of who is president in 2022. What should be of essence is the country’s stability as espoused in the BBI. The sideshows should end so that we get back on track,” he said by phone.

He added: “The meeting will be called soon since time is of essence. Mkutano ilipata hiccup kidogo, wacha tuipatie maji ndio iendelee (There was a hiccup about the meeting, let’s straighten things up then we shall resume).”

Contacted, ANC leader Mudavadi said he did not know why the meeting was called off, though he suggested that the “unwarranted behaviour” of Raila’s allies may have compelled the President and his team to reschedule it.

“The meeting was supposed to be organised by State House, they were the ones who were to inform us when to be there. As of now I have not received any commu-nication from State House or his (Uhuru) handlers. I am not sure whether it will take place tomorrow,” Mudavadi told People Daily on phone.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, on his part, said; “I have not received any communication concerning the meeting. As a matter of fact, I am travelling to Mombasa this evening with the House leadership. The meeting will go on till Friday.”

“Were tomorrow’s meeting at State House to be held, I should have been in-formed by now but since I have no information, I doubt whether it is on.”

This came as it emerged that President Kenyatta had prevailed on Raila to skip a rally at Nairobi’s Kibera on Sunday that was expected to come up with what would have been billed as a major declaration on the BBI.

Behind the scenes

The President reportedly reached out to Raila hours after his (Raila’s) allies, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo claimed that senior government officials led by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho were working behind the scenes to frustrate the BBI and craft a parallel Uhuru succession plan.

“Just like it happened when President Kibaki was serving his second and last term in 2013, some people inside the gov-ernment are busy trying to lay succession strategy. They are reaping from where they have not sown. Without the Handshake be-ween Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta that has brought peace in this country, they could not be planning that succession,” Orengo said.

The claims were repeated by key Raila ally Minority Whip Junet Mohammed.

Monday Kimunya, who is also the Kipipiri MP, downplayed the claims by Raila’s camp and cautioned politicians not to drag the 2022 succession politics into the BBI.

“Though BBI has nothing to do with 2022 succession politics, it may shape the race to State House in terms of its configuration. But we should not have the thinking that BBI has a preferred candidate,” he said, adding that the two principals have been clear and consistent not to link the two issues.

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