Hurdles Uhuru and Raila face in referendum push

Uhuru Kenyatta BBI report

President Uhuru Kenyatta receives the BBI report from the task force vice chairperson Adams Oloo during the handover ceremony at Kisii State Lodge on October 21, 2020.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Governors will be key to the passage of the report as they will be used to mobilise voters for the referendum.
  • Ward representatives are key actors in the push for the referendum.

President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga face a litany of demands from constituencies key to the passing of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Referendum Bill and who have threatened to reject it if their demands are not met.

It will be a tough balancing act, going by Mr Odinga’s statement yesterday.

“There is little chance of significant new ideas being brought into the document ahead of the referendum, except for editorial work to make it explicit on demands by various groups where it sounds vague or general, as is the case with issues of pastoralists,” he said. 

“However, some groups feel that their views were not captured in the manner they were presented. Those are the corrections we promise to make.”

Governors who met at Enashipai Resort in Naivasha, yesterday proposed at least 10 radical amendments to the report.

They join a list of demands from Deputy President William Ruto’s allies, lawmakers from Mt Kenya, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, The Service Party (TSP) chief Mwangi Kiunjuri, women leaders, ward representatives, pastoralist and labour unions.

In a joint statement to journalists read by Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, the county bosses demanded pension and other benefits. 

The council wants governors, deputy governors, county assembly speakers and ward representatives given retirement packages.

“They should be entitled to a monthly pension equal to eight per cent of their current salary,” the statement by Mr Oparanya said.

“They should also get a lump sum payment on retirement, calculated as a sum equal to one year salary.”

Other retirement perks being proposed by the group are a saloon of an engine capacity not exceeding 2000cc “which shall be replaced every four years”; a four-wheel drive vehicle of an engine capacity not exceeding 3000cc replaceable every four years; and a fuel allowance equal to 15 per cent of current monthly salary.

Governors want the release of funds to county governments streamlined.

Release of funds

“In order to ensure timely release of funds to counties, the disbursement schedule as prescribed by legislation should be submitted to the Central Bank of Kenya by the Speaker of the Senate for implementation within 14 days of the passage of the Division of Revenue Act,” the statement read.

Governors will be key to the passage of the report as they will be used to mobilise voters for the referendum and persuade ward representatives to pass the law in 24 of the country’s 47 counties.

County Assemblies Forum chairman Ndegwa Wahome said members are still discussing their proposals ahead of a meeting at Bomas of Kenya on Friday.

“There are matters that cannot be canvassed in a joint meeting. The governing council shall meet on Friday and share our proposals with the President and the ODM leader. The more than 1,500 ward representatives will attend the meeting,” Mr Ndegwa told journalists later. 

Ward representatives are key actors in the push for the referendum since the draft bill containing the proposed changes to the Constitution should be backed by at least 24 county assemblies before it goes to the National Assembly and the Senate.

The representatives’ strategic political positioning at the grassroots gives them a bigger say in the push for the collection of a million signatures needed before the process begins.

According to the Constitution, once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is satisfied that the plan to amend the Constitution meets the requirement of the law, it will submit the draft bill to every county assembly for debate and consideration.

The assemblies will then have three months to debate and consider the draft bill.

Dr Ruto’s allies made new demands to the President.

Jubilee Party Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Nakuru Woman Representative Liza Chelule and her Nyeri counterpart Rahab Mukami and MPs George Murugara (Tharaka) and Mathias Robi (Kuria West) told Mr Kenyatta to provide a clear avenue for citizens and other institutions that have concerns with the BBI to raise them.

They said that can be achieved by establishing County BBI secretariats to collect views from Kenyans on their concerns with the report, listening to the views of institutions including the National Council of Churches of Kenya, women leaders and the Judiciary.

Other concerns the Dr Ruto team raised are the establishment of Guaranteed Minimum Return Fund, which should constitute five per cent of the revenue raised nationally specifically dedicated to agricultural business stabilisation, addressing of concerns of the Kuria community in Migori county which they termed as “marginalised”, as well as addressing concerns about the IEBC constitution.

The group was supported by Mr Kiunjuri who decried “the seclusion of Mt Kenya and a part of the Rift Valley in the BBI report”.

Reopening of report

“The average amount of money given to a person per county with the highest allocation should not exceed three times the average amount per person given to the county with the lowest allocation,” Mr Kiunjuri said. 

Parliament is a critical component in the push for a review of the Constitution as the lawmakers are expected to pass several legislations crucial in the implementation process.

For a bill like the one meant to amend the Constitution to pass, it requires 233 lawmakers in the National Assembly and 45 in the Senate. 

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, his Senate counterpart Samuel Poghisio, their Minority counterparts John Mbadi (National Assembly) and James Orengo (Senate), Majority Whips Emmanuel Wangwe (National Assembly) and Irungu Kang’ata (Senate) and their minority counterpart Junet Mohammed (National Assembly) and Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Senate) are expected to mobilise and whip members to support the initiative.

Pastoralist – through their MPs who say they number about 10 million in 15 counties and 109 constituencies covering a 80 per cent of Kenya’s land mass – have rejected the pegging of revenue allocation on population and demanded the formation of a Livestock Marketing Authority with the capacity to export live animals to competitive markets.

The team also wants the 20-year sunset clause in the Equalisation Fund deleted and started afresh when money is disbursed. 

They want the recruitment of tutors localised, saying the Teachers Service Commission is biased against their regions.

Last week, Mr Mudavadi called for the reopening of the report. He was part of a meeting last Wednesday at State House which was also attended by Mr Odinga.

“Nothing is cast in stone. The only thing we cannot change is the 10 commandments in the Bible. BBI is not the 10 commandments. If there are things that require amendments, this is the time. We should get experts. They will synchronise these things in a short period and we will have a good document,” Mr Mudavadi said. 

Reported by Eric Matara, Justus Ochieng, Ibrahim Oruko and Samuel Owino

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