Uhuru and Raila prepare troops for BBI battle

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda (centre) and some of the MPs who are allied to President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga address the media at Nyayo House in Nairobi on October 15, 2020 where they dismissed allegations of ‘handshake’ talks between the President and his deputy William Ruto.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Today, President Kenyatta will meet his Cabinet at a retreat to be held at the Kenya Wildlife Service Field Training School, Manyani.
  • On Saturday, the Head of State is expected to meet the leadership of both the Senate and the National Assembly at State House from 11am.

President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are, this weekend, set to prepare the ground for the unveiling of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report even as they seek wide support for its execution — including possible changes to the Constitution. 

The March 9, 2018 Handshake partners are scheduled to hold a series of meetings with the Cabinet and leaders of both chambers of Parliament to marshal their troops to back the initiative.

Today, President Kenyatta will meet his Cabinet and Deputy President William Ruto at a retreat to be held at the Kenya Wildlife Service Field Training School, Manyani, within Tsavo West National Park in Taita Taveta County.  Experts in communication, law and political analysis will also join the retreat at the exclusive lodge to play advisory roles.

On Saturday, the Head of State is expected to meet the leadership of both the Senate and the National Assembly at State House from 11am. This includes the two Speakers, deputy Speakers, majority and minority leaders, their deputies and whips and chairmen and vice-chairpersons of both Houses. A senior Senate leader yesterday told the Nation that the BBI will top the agenda.

Read: Uhuru plans to fast track BBI report findings as legacy beckons

“We have to be taken through it so that it passes without any hitch unlike the revenue sharing formula that gave us a headache,” the official who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue said.  National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya confirmed the meeting while Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata said he expected the talks to focus on “how to ensure government business flows in the house without a hitch”.

Weekend meetings

Mr Odinga has also been holding talks with lieutenants in the House in the lead-up to the Saturday meeting, which the former prime minister is expected to attend.  The DP is expected in the Cabinet retreat and has even cancelled his weekend meetings in Murang’a and Meru to attend. Initially, President Kenyatta had wanted the House leadership to join the Cabinet retreat, but speakers Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka prevailed upon him to have a separate meeting.

“The President had wanted the leadership of the two Houses to join his Cabinet but it was thought wise that the two meetings be held separately so the House can retain its reputation as an independent institution,” one of the leaders in Parliament who did not want his name to go on record said. 

The Manyani retreat, the Nation learnt, will not only focus on post-Covid-19 economic recovery, but also seek to heal the rift in the Cabinet caused by the DP’s activities.  Last week, there was a storm in Cabinet after some ministers took on the second-in-command over his criticism of the government that he also serves. During the retreat, the President is also expected to prepare the Cabinet for the eventual tabling of the BBI report and call for unity when the report is released.

On the BBI, Mr Kenyatta’s advisers are exploring two options — a change of the Constitution with a referendum and one without.  The second option would involve an Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG)-style option of spearheading reforms through Parliament.

Read: Raila’s fresh headache as he readies for BBI report launch

This would avoid the heavy cost of a referendum and not subject the country to another politicking season barely two years to the General Election.  

But they are also preparing for a referendum and want laws on the same passed in both Houses. 

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi set the pace for the discussion when he directed two of its committees to hold a joint sitting to speed up the merger of two referendum Bills currently before the House. 

The Speaker made the order as the Constitutional Implementation and Oversight Committee (CIOC) and the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) presented reports on the two Bills.

Bills collapsed

“In fairness to the House, it would be much neater if the two committees could, during the recess, meet because the subject is the same and give us some way forward so that when members debate, there’s no confusion,” he said just moments after Kangema MP Muturi Kigano tabled his committee’s report.

Read: We will hold people-driven BBI meetings, Ruto allies say

Mr Kigano had proposed to have one of the two Bills collapsed at the third reading, but was overruled by Mr Muturi.  The Bill by the CIOC, chaired by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, seeks to have a referendum held together with the General Election.  However, this proposal is unlikely to be welcomed by some BBI proponents led by Mr Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo, who have not shied from calling for a referendum this year.

The Referendum Bill, which was developed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and shared with JLAC, was brought to the House after the CIOC Bill had already been tabled.

The CIOC took the opportunity to generate its Bill after JLAC dragged its feet in speeding up the IEBC draft Bill.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, an ally of DP Ruto, vowed to lead a No campaign if the BBI issues are “forced on Kenyans”.

“So BBI will now be launched this weekend? I cannot remember any other process that involves the people of Kenya that has been managed like private property… now let the campaigns begin.” He tweeted.   The President has also been meeting delegations in State House.  Five days ago, he hosted a delegation from Kisii.

“My legacy is the Handshake”, he said during the event.

Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng. lndungu@ke.nationmedia.com   mweredavid@gmail.com