REFERENDUM JITTERS

Eyes on BBI team as it starts writing the handshake report

Among the proposals is the amendment of the Constitution to make the Senate the Upper House with veto powers

In Summary

• The Building Bridges Initiative task force constituted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga retreated last week on Friday to start writing its report

• The team is mandated to come up with a policy, administrative reform proposals, and implementation modalities for each identified challenge area

Busia Senator Amos Wako speaks on September 21, 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta met the Building Bridges team at State House.
PRESENTATION: Busia Senator Amos Wako speaks on September 21, 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta met the Building Bridges team at State House.
Image: PSCU

The creation of the post of a Prime Minister and a ceremonial President to serve a seven-year non-renewable term is among the radical proposals before Building Bridges Initiative task force.

Also before the BBI team, which on Friday last week started writing its report on the views collected across the country on referendum, are proposals to introduce 14 regional governments and the creation of two deputy prime ministers.

The proponents of the referendum say the two deputies should of both genders.

 
 
 

They also want the constitution amended to make the Senate the Upper House with veto powers with the aim of ending squabbles and the sibling rivalry between the Senate and the National Assembly.

The BBI task force was constituted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga after their March 9, 2018, handshake. Until its retreat last week, it had been collecting the views of Kenyans on nine key issues.

It is headed by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and has the mandate to develop policy, administrative reform proposals, and implementation modalities for each identified challenge area.

Ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility were some of the broad issues identified.

Some of those who appeared before the task force want annual mandatory lifestyle audits of all state and public officers and their families to slay the corruption dragon.

Others want the hearing of cases in courts hastened. The hearing should be on a priority basis for a period not exceeding six months.

Another radical proposal before the BBI team is that the Judicial Service Commission should be locked out of the appointment of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice. The de-registering of political parties that do not present candidates in two consecutive elections is yet another proposal.

 
 
 

While most of the issues raised may require an administrative solution, the one that has caused political jitters is the expansion of the structure of the Executive.

The clamour for a referendum has been gaining momentum, with Raila, the second Prime Minister after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, leading.

OPPOSITION TO REFERENDUM

A group led by Deputy President William Ruto maintains that it will only consider a referendum if is meant to reduce the wage bill, not add political positions.

The DP and the majority of Jubilee Party MPs, governors and MCAs are opposed to the expansion of the Executive, arguing that it will not only burden taxpayers but will also kill competitive politics.

But the proponents of the plebiscite argue that the creation of more positions will cure regional and ethnic imbalances and the perception of the winner-takes-it-all after every presidential election.

Initially, President Kenyatta signalled “there is a need to address the issue of winner-takes-all" but has since kept off BBI politics, only calling on politicians to preach unity and national cohesion.

“We said we must look at this issue of winner-takes-all. If that is why some people feel left out of government, we must ask ourselves: is it a good thing?” Uhuru was on a tour of Raila's Nyanza backyard in December last year.

While Raila’s ODM presented their views to the BBI team, neither Uhuru nor his party Jubilee or his inner circle submitted views, putting in doubt his support for any constitutional amendments through a referendum.

DP Ruto says that as far as the Jubilee is concerned, BBI was meant to bring down political temperatures and to find a solution to hate and negative ethnicity.

“BBI was about bringing people together and eliminating the perceptions of hate and negative ethnicity. That is what BBI was meant to achieve and that is where we all expect it to go. It is not a replacement of the Constitution or the legal framework that exists,” he told Punchline, a K24 TT talk show on July 21.

He added, “It (BBI) is an attempt and a goodwill institution to harmonise and harness the goodwill between two different sides represented by Uhuru and Raila to try and bridge the trust deficit so that people can again talk together ...

"I do not think  there will be any legislation or change of the Constitution to make Kenya any different from a multi-party democracy that we have.”

Besides Haji, the other members of the task force are political scientist Adams Oloo, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Agnes Kavindu, Saeed Mwanguni, Florence Omose, Morompi ole Ronk, Peter Njenga and John Seii.

Also in the team are James Matundura, Lawi Imathiu, Samburu Woman Representative Maison Leshomo, Rose Museu and Zacchaeus Okoth.

Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi are joint secretaries.