BBI creates powerful PM, wants politicians in Cabinet

The Taskforce held its last formal sitting on Wednesday

In Summary

• The Building Bridges Initiative taskforce completed filing its report after collecting views of Kenyans across the country.

. The team said that they believed that what has been collected will be used by the citizens to build the bonds between them

BBI chairman Senator Yusuf Haji and Amos Wako at the citizens' engagement forum in Nairobi on Thursday.
BBI chairman Senator Yusuf Haji and Amos Wako at the citizens' engagement forum in Nairobi on Thursday.

The Building Bridges Initiative has proposed the introduction of a parliamentary system of government with a powerful Prime Minister and two deputies, radically overhauling the current system of governance.

The BBI team is against the winner-takes-all presidential system, largely blamed for political tensions and post-election violence.

The radical proposals, which will be submitted to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga next week, seek to totally reconfigure the architecture of government to address historical injustices and foster national unity.

Yesterday, the 14-man task force gave the clearest hint that it had made some radical recommendations and notified Kenyans that it had completed its assignment.

"The joint secretaries have officially communicated to the office of the President that the Building Bridges Initiative report is ready for handing over to the President," part of joint task force statement signed by BBI joint secretaries Paul Mwangi and Martin Kimani read.

According to the task force, the views to be presented to the President take into account the views of Kenyans from the 47 counties including testimonies and petitions from professional bodies.

The views were also collected from constitutional commissions, the civil society, religious leaders and associations, business associations and business leaders.

“Having heard how urgently Kenyans seek positive and far-reaching changes, the task force believes that Kenya can use this auspicious moment to build the bonds between us that will become a strong foundation for an inclusive, fair and prosperous nation,” the statement says.

In an earlier interview with the Star, Mwangi said: “We are confident we have done our best, done it honestly and I am sure it would go a long way in sorting out our problems as a country.”

Sources told the Star that as per yesterday morning, the 14-man team headed by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and university teacher Adams Oloo had recommended a parliamentary system with a ceremonial president.

The President would, however, remain the head of government and the commander-in-chief of defence forces.

In what is likely to shake the country's political landscape, the PM will be elected by Parliament from the party that wins majority seats, shifting the battle for executive power to Parliament.

To address the question of exclusivity, the 14-member panel proposes that the president, deputy president, the prime minister and the two deputies should be shared out by at least five different tribes.

However, communities that miss out on the big five plum jobs at the apex of power would share ministerial positions either based on tribes or regions to give the cabinet a national face.

The cabinet would be appointed from among members of Parliament.

According to the BBI team's findings, the accumulation of power among the few Kenyan tribes has disadvantaged small communities who feel excluded from government, hence brewing ethnic polarisation.

“What we are recommending is what Kenyans, political formations and various state agencies asked for. We are not adding anything. Most Kenyans said they wanted a parliamentary system with an expanded executive,” a member of the BBI told the Star in confidence.

He went on: “After looking at the views submitted to us, we are convinced that a parliamentary system is the way to go.”

The push for a parliamentary system is likely to trigger a political showdown in a new referendum battlefront as the proposals go for a public vote.

The constitution requires that a referendum must be held if the system of governance is to be changed.

Raila, himself a former Prime Minister who served under the 2008-2013 grand coalition government, has been rooting for a parliamentary system and has blamed the current presidential system for entrenching tribal exclusivity.

Yesterday, the task force announced that it had officially sought an appointment with Uhuru’s office to hand in the report.

“The joint secretaries have officially communicated to the Office of the President that the Building Bridges Initiative report is ready for handing over to H.E the President. They have received word that the event will be scheduled at the first available opportunity,” the team announced.

The report, they said, has taken into account the views of Kenyans from across the 47 counties, testimonies and petitions from professional bodies, constitutional commissions, civil society and the political elite.

Uhuru left for Japan and Russia on Tuesday and his return date remains unclear.

Both the President and Raila have separately hinted at a possible referendum to implement the BBI proposals.

Last week, Uhuru said he will lead his administration in a countrywide tour to lobby for the BBI report.

“We will be back with BBI very soon," Uhuru told an ecstatic crowd at Ngong as he launched the Nairobi-Suswa standard gauge railway line.

"We will be back...and let no one lie to you that it's politics we would be doing.”

The BBI team was established by Uhuru and Raila after they closed ranks on March 9, 2018, and shook hands in a symbolic gesture for a political truce.

The team comprises Senator Haji (chairman), Oloo (vice-chair), Agnes Kavindu, Senator Amos Wako, Florence Omosa, Saeed Mwanguni, James Matundura, retired Major John Seii, retired Bishop Lawi Imathiu, MP Maison Leshomo, Morompi ole Ronkai, retired Bishop Peter Njenga, Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museu and retired Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth.

Some political analysts have warned that the bane of the country's historical injustices and perennial political tensions lies in the current presidential system where a few tribes lord themselves over minorities who lack electoral power.

The BBI panel believes that a parliamentary system with the PM being elected by MPs would reduce periodic cut-throat competition synonymous with presidential polls.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o has, for instance, described Kenya's presidential system as "an ugly beast" that the country should urgently get rid of.

“The presidential system of government is bad. It is bad, period,” Nyong’o writes in his new book, Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy in Kenya,

Under the parliamentary system, the President will be elected by popular vote as a ceremonial head of state and commander-in-chief of the defence forces but it will be upon the Prime Minister to form a government with politicians as ministers.

The PM will then appoint two deputies and ministers from among members of Parliament while balancing various tribes and regions to give the government a national face.

The enactment of the 2010 Constitution heralded a new political dispensation where cabinet ministers would no longer be picked from Parliament.

After President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto rode to power in 2013, they settled on a cabinet of technocrats in what they argued would bring professionalism.

In his first Cabinet in 2013 the President had said that other than himself and his deputy, there would be no other politicians.

However, perhaps learning from his initial cabinet, the President brought on board a couple of politicians in his 2017 cabinet and created additional positions of Chief Administrative Secretaries to accommodate political losers.

A section of Jubilee MPs has said it will back the recommendations if they advocate for reforms to better the lives of Kenyans.

However, the MPs say they will reject the BBI report if it proposes the creation of additional seats for a few individuals.

Speaking at Sekenani in Narok West, Narok County, in the company of Deputy President Ruto on Wednesday, the leaders noted that the report should prioritise the interests of the people as opposed to those of politicians.

 They were Narok County Governor Samuel Tunai, MPs Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Johanna Ng'eno (Emurua Dikirr), Patrick Munene (Chuka Igembe Ngombe), Soipan Tuya (Woman Rep, Narok), Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Nelson Koech (Belgut).

Koech said they would have no problem with the BBI report “if its intentions are noble and of benefit to the people”.

However, he said they would not entertain a proposal whose sole purpose is to create executive positions for a few individuals.

Kositany said Kenyans would thoroughly evaluate the report and take a position on its content.

His sentiments were echoed by Munene who said Kenyans were waiting for the report to find out what is in for them.

He said Kenyans would not support a report that has nothing for them.

“If the report is tailored to benefit the people, we would support it; but if it is about creating additional political positions, we would reject it,” Munene said.

Soipan said it would be unfortunate if the BBI recommends changes that will only benefit politicians.

She said no amount of intimidation will stop them from advocating for the interests of the people they represent.

“If BBI is about selfish political interests, we will reject it,” Soipan said.