Showdown as Uhuru, Raila set to release BBI report this weekend

Ruto and his allies vow to oppose the BBI, amendment to the Constitution

In Summary

• President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga are set to unveil the much-awaited BBI report.

• DP William Ruto has criticised the clamour to amend the decade-old Constitution to create ‘positions for a few people'.

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27, 2019.
BBI LAUNCH: Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27, 2019.
Image: DPPS

The Building Bridges Initiative report is likely to be released as soon as this weekend. 

The result could be a political showdown pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga on one side against Deputy President William Ruto on the other. 

The BBI report is expected to change the country’s governance structure, including by the creation of the office of Prime Minister and two deputies.

Ruto, whos is gunning to succeed Uhuru, is opposed to anything that waters down the presidency. But Raila and Uhuru appear to be willing to allow greater diversity at the top. 

Already, key Ruto ally Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen is spoiling for war. 

Murkomen, a former Senate majority leader who was among the DP’s allies ousted in the Jubilee purge, accused Uhuru of managing the BBI process like a "private property" despite being a public discourse.

The details of the imminent release of the BBI report emerged a day after Uhuru called for a meeting with the parliamentary leadership and a two-day Cabinet retreat at the Coast.

Sources aware of the preparations say that all is set for the handover of the report to the leaders by the BBI task force chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji.

“I am sure it is coming out next week,” a highly placed source said on Thursday.

Ruto and his allies have promised to reject the report, effectively setting the stage for a gruelling political battle.

The DP took the stage of a fundraiser and youth event at Sironga Grounds in West Mugirango in Nyamira Thursday to signal he will lead his troops to oppose the report.

Ruto criticised the clamour by Uhuru and Raila to amend the decade-old Constitution to create "positions for a few people".

The DP said the major problem in the country was that more focus was being directed at efforts to create positions at the expense of improving the lives of Kenyans. 

“Let no one lie to us again. Every other time we are preoccupied about issues affecting the leaders – prime minister, power and positions. When shall we discuss the jobs of ordinary Kenyans if it is not now?” he asked.

Despite the tough stance, Ruto is expected to join his boss as he leads his Cabinet on a two-day retreat at KWS Training Centre in Manyani, Taita Taveta,

Insiders say Uhuru could brief the Cabinet about the content of the report and lay the ground for the launch.

The President will then submit the report to Parliament during the State of the Nation Address scheduled for early next month.

Some sources said the retreat is also part of Uhuru’s attempt to reconcile his divided Cabinet which has been characterised by cold wars.

Last Thursday's Cabinet meeting held at State House was reported to have been stormy, with some CSs accusing the DP of early campaigns.

Fresh from the retreat, Uhuru is Saturday scheduled to meet the leadership of both the Senate and the National Assembly as part of the sensitisation process.

The meeting at State House, Nairobi, will be attended by speakers of the bicameral Parliament, their deputies, Majority and Minority leaders, deputies and chairs of committees.

The assembly will be the first of its kind, coming months after a brutal parliamentary purge on the DP’s allies. Their plum positions went to the President's and Raila’s loyalists.

The purge was seen as part of a process to clear the hurdles on the BBI train and prepare the way for the smooth implementation of the BBI recommendations.

“I have received a request from His Excellency the President on the need to meet the leadership of the Senate and all committee chairs and vice-chairs,” Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said in a letter dated October 14.

“This is, therefore, to invite you to a meeting with His Excellency, the President on Saturday, October 17, 2020, at 11 at State House, Nairobi. You are required to be seated by 10.30am. Please, be punctual.”

Although the letter fell short of the agenda of the meeting, the Star understands that unveiling of the final BBI report is top.

The meeting will also set the date when the President will deliver his State of the Nation Address in Parliament.

Uhuru will also use the session to bond with the new leadership of the two Houses, address the sibling rivalry between them and seek the legislature’s support to actualise his legacy agenda.

“I am not aware of the BBI…. But he is going to address [State of the Nation] Parliament immediately when we come back [from the meeting]. That is early November. That will be firmed up but it is going to be in early November. That is for sure,” Lusaka told the Star.

“This meeting is long overdue. It has been outstanding. So that is why if the President gets time, we have decided that we just hold it now. Especially, because we have new leaders,” he added.

National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi said there was a "likelihood" of the meeting focusing on the BBI report, saying it would be released "very soon".

“We may discuss BBI since the role of Parliament is important. Not that we need any persuasion but we may need to discuss what he (the President) expects and the aspects that require legislation,” the lawmaker said.

The meeting also comes on the backdrop of an advisory by Chief Justice David Maraga for the President to dissolve Parliament, advice the head of state recently said he is not keen on implementing.

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu has already appointed a five-judge bench to hear various petitions filed at the High Court seeking to stop the President from implementing the CJ’s advisory.

Uhuru and Raila are said to be considering pushing the BBI proposals through Parliament and not the long route of a referendum. That route would require the collection of one million signatures and getting the endorsement of at least 24 county assemblies for a referendum.

However, Ruto said the country should focus on empowering the youth, women and the less fortunate, instead of serving the political elite.

“That is why they are saying they want to change the Constitution. We are saying we want to change the discussion.

"They are saying we amend the Constitution so that we create the position of a prime minister, but we are saying the discussion should be how to change the lives of the ordinary Kenyans,” Ruto told the crowd.

Ruto and his Tangatanga team have been sceptical about the BBI, claiming it was being used to block the DP from ascending to the county’s top seat in 2022.

Murkomen claimed that the President’s meeting with the House leadership will be an “informal launch pad” for the BBI final report.

“So, the Cabinet will discuss the BBI final report today and be launched in State House on Saturday. Now let the campaigns begin,” he said.

Murkomen said the BBI process had been managed "like private property even more than official secrets”.   

“Even ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI chairman Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji don’t know the contents of the final report just like they didn’t know what was in the first report that was launched in Bomas. All are waiting for Saturday's launch,” he tweeted.


(edited by o. owino)