Uhuru calls for calm, lays groundwork for launch of BBI report

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the parliamentary leadership team comprising House and committee leaders from both the Senate and the National Assembly in State House, Nairobi, on October 17, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • On political positions, the President told the legislators that he was not telling them to kill their ambitions, but to wait for the official campaign period.
  • The President also hailed the composition of the new parliamentary structure, where opposition members have been incorporated into House and committee leadership positions, as indicative of the desired new Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday met with parliamentary leadership at State House in Nairobi for, among others, the laying of groundwork for the release of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, which is expected any time from tomorrow.

Signalling that he could publicly receive the report from the team led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, President Kenyatta told the MPs that he will be counting on them in the next phase on the implementation of the proposals, those who spoke to the Sunday Nation said.

The meeting was initially slated for Kilaguni in Taita-Taveta but was moved to Nairobi as the President was said to have had pressing matters to attend to in the capital. It brought together the new leaders of House committees, who took over after the purge of those associated with Deputy President William Ruto.

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata confirmed that the BBI project featured prominently in the talks, and that the President had asked politicians to tame their ambitions now to allow the economy, which is still smarting from the effects of Covid-19 crisis, to pick up.

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

“He (Mr Kenyatta) said three things (he called them chapters): We, the Senate and the National Assembly, should stay together as a team; the Senate and National Assembly should discuss issues and avoid fighting; and we should expect and support BBI. He didn’t say when,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Envisaged changes

In the envisaged changes contained in the first BBI document — which the Sunday Nation has been told have been retained — the position of prime minister and that of official opposition leader will be reintroduced. More revenue will also be sent to counties to spur localised economic growth and support the devolution agenda.

Multiple sources who attended the meeting said President Kenyatta was concerned about the campaign fever that is fast setting in, with Dr Ruto, Mr Odinga and other leading politicians crisscrossing the country to drum up support for their camps.

“The President spoke from the heart on a number of issues, such as the need to tone down political rhetoric, which is wrecking the economy,” said Minority leader in the National Assembly John Mbadi.

On political positions, the President told the legislators that he was not telling them to kill their ambitions, but to wait for the official campaign period. He gave the example of Senate Majority Whip Kang’ata, who has said he is going to run for Murang’a governor, saying he should wait till the time was right.

Read: Uhuru and Raila prepare troops for BBI battle

Though he did not delve into details, the President is understood to have indicated that his recent visit to Paris had an unexpected setback as French leaders raised skepticism about Kenya remaining peaceful and politically stable in the next three decades. The Kenyan government, on return from Paris, announced that a French consortium of companies had agreed to build a road from Rironi to Mau Summit and recoup the money over 30 years.

Among those who spoke at the meeting were Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, his National Assembly counterpart Justin Muturi, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Samuel Poghisio and James Orengo, and the National Assembly majority leader Amos Kimunya. Senator Margaret Kamar delivered the vote of thanks.

Political activity

But even as the President was pleading for scaling back of the heightened political activity, his deputy, speaking in Meru, pressed on, vowing to continue with his campaigns. “There are those who want us not to talk about the needs of ordinary people, but we will not stop. We must change our leadership approach to be heavy on the lower part of the wealth pyramid,” he said.

In a dispatch to newsrooms, State House avoided the hard political stuff discussed in Uhuru’s meeting, choosing instead to talk about political tranquility and the Bills that must be fast-tracked in the two Houses to realise Jubilee government’s Big Four agenda.

“There are certain Bills out there that we really need to equally fast-track, and some of them are either stuck in the National Assembly or in the Senate, or in between, with a push-and-pull between the two parties. If there’s something that’s going to prevent us from achieving that Big 4 Agenda, it will be these things,” the State House press team reported the President as saying.

The President also hailed the composition of the new parliamentary structure, where opposition members have been incorporated into House and committee leadership positions, as indicative of the desired new Kenya.

“I believe this is the first true session of the leadership of Parliament that is truly reflective of the way in which we want our country to go. We are not sitting here as Jubilee, as ODM, as Ford-Kenya, as Kanu, as Wiper, as ANC. We are actually sitting here as the leadership of Kenya discussing matters pertaining to the wellbeing of our people and the future of our nation. And that is something that gives me immense pleasure and delight because I really believe that through this, I am beginning to see the new beginnings of the kind of Kenya that we want to see,” the President said.

The Head of State encouraged parliamentarians to seek accurate information on the various national government initiatives, saying uninformed political pronouncements on programmess such as Huduma Namba were misleading the public.

Ambitious agenda

The President will be relying on the team to deliver his ambitious agenda. A source in the BBI team said there are proposals that may only require Parliament to legislate and, in the event of a referendum, the institution would still play a pivotal role in the push, making it the theatre of action as the DP mobilises his troops to oppose changes that run counter to his ‘Hustler Nation’ ideology.

This will be the first big test for National Assembly Leader of Majoirty Amos Kimunya, who pales in braggadocio in comparison to the ebullient Aden Duale, who carried out his duties with a lot of gusto.

Mr Kimunya has been described by his colleagues as aloof and lacking the open-door policy of his predecessor, but many others say the Kipipiri legislator has the calm strategic thinking of a patient politician, which lacks in the upper crust of the country’s political leadership.

Though he is an excellent debater and schemer when it comes to having government business pass in the House, Mr Kimunya will have a hard task steering debate on what is essentially a very politically charged process whose ramifications will be felt up to the General Election in 2022.

But it is at the Senate, specifically on the Division of Revenue Bill, where the new leadership’s soft underbelly was exposed. Mr Poghisio and Mr Kang’ata, the Majority Leader and Majority Whip, respectively, struggled to get requisite numbers to pass a government-friendly Bill, which eventually sailed through on consensus after 10 futile tries.

jwanga@ke.nationmedia.com, wgithae@ke.nationmedia.com