- According to the Constitution, actualization of the 156 paged documents is only possible either through a Parliamentary initiative and or national referendum.
- Whether to subject the document to popular vote or Parliamentary initiative is a decision that has brought fresh unity test to the country’s political class with camps already emerging.
Weeks after the grand launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report, the road ahead seems to be rough and bumpy for the document touted as the main unity thread for the country.
The report is already facing strong headwinds right from implementation with leaders pulling apart, unable to agree on the way forward.
According to the Constitution, the actualisation of the 156-page document is only possible either through a parliamentary initiative and/ or national referendum.
Whether to subject the document to popular vote or parliamentary initiative is a decision that has brought fresh unity test to the country’s political class with camps already emerging.
Pushing the parliamentary initiative are Deputy President William Ruto and politicians oscillating around him, while President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and allied MPs are for a referendum.
Raila’s team fears the document will be mutilated in the hands of DP’s allies who have openly expressed reservations should there be major changes by the technical team.
According to Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo, the bill belongs to Parliament as it proposes to effect changes in areas that require Kenyans' approval.
“The fact that we must have a referendum is obvious from a constitutional perspective. The first reason is that implementation of the proposed changes will affect the functions of Parliament,” Otiende said.
The former Ombudsman added that BBI recommendations by compelling governor candidates to have the other gender as running mate affects the Bill of Rights.
“Anything that affects the Bill of Rights must go to a referendum. This report proposes a radical departure from what we have. Proposing that if the governor candidate is a woman then the deputy must be a man will affect Article 38 of the Constitution.”
However, Ruto’s camp differs. To them, the issues advanced in the recommendations so far need not go to the people as MPs can handle.
“We now have a report that will be tabled in Parliament and our MPs, both in the National Assembly and Senate, know the role they have been given to ensure all proposals in this document are passed,” Ruto said during the Bomas launch.
Are those calling for a referendum aware of the polarisation referendum campaigns are likely to cause? Are those calling for a referendum aware of the effects such campaigns are likely to do to our economy through disruption of businesses?National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale
Some quarters claim that ODM team fears Ruto’s influence among most parliamentarians which might turn to frustrate the document if they take a Parliamentary route hence their push for a referendum.
In the 12th Parliament, the DP enjoys the support of a considerable size of MPs who pledge allegiance to him.
It is feared that the DP might decide to rally his troops in Parliament against the document to deny the National Assembly the 233-vote sweeping majority to pass a constitutional change.
In fact, several ODM lawmakers have come out to publicly confirm the fear.
“I hear people talking about Parliamentary initiative, I want to state here categorically you can't initiate a constitutional reform through Parliament. How do you expect the initiative to pass in that kind of a divided house?” Mbadi posed.
“I have been to Parliament long enough, Parliament can't drive reforms, I have been an MP and know what happens.”
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati did not mince his words, “I want to state here that parliament is not going to discuss BBI report. DP Ruto will buy all the Members of Parliament. The only court where we will get justice is the court of common wananchi.”
But even with the referendum, the process will still require a tedious process of collection of signatures, verification of the same by the electoral agency and finally getting the nod of 24 out of the 47 County Assemblies.
Raila’s Okoa Kenya initiative that was to radically reform the electoral body before the last election died a natural death after failing to garner the requisite signatures.
And to complicate it further, the current budget still has no allocation for such an expensive exercise and this will call for a supplementary budget.
Whereas the Uhuru/Raila side has extended the term of the BBI team to steer the next phase of guiding public participation and structuring recommendations by Kenyans into implementable action plans, the Ruto side is still weary.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who is currently gravitating towards DP Ruto side, termed the suggestion to have experts have a look at the document a second time clever way of introducing Parliamentary system with imperial Prime Minister.
“There is only one reason Raila Odinga and his ilk want to bother the people with going through the BBI again. He lost everything in BBI One. He wants a chance to amend it and introduce regional premiers, Executive Prime Minister and Parliamentary System in BBI Two,” Kuria said.
Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, vocal trade unionist Francis Atwoli and ODM governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Hassan Joho (Mombasa) have already dismissed the Executive model proposed in the report and are instead pushing for a powerful PM.
Another headwind the process will contend with is the uncertainty that comes in the pending case by the Ekuru Aukot-led Thirdway Alliance challenging the legality of the advisory task force that gave birth to the BBI report.
The absence of the referendum law also places another hurdle for the BBI report should a decision be made that the process goes to the people.
To kick-start the process of a referendum, Parliament needs to enact a referendum law that is currently missing.
“To conduct a referendum there must be a referendum law. What the IEBC has been using in receiving signatures for Okoa Kenya and Punguza Mizigo is the Election Act of 2011,” National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale says.
Uhuru formed the handshake team in May 2018 under Article 10 of the Constitution.
They were to tackle ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, safety and security, corruption and shared prosperity.