Uhuru, Raila move to rally allies and stem rebellion against BBI 

President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM chief Raila Odinga (right) and DP William Ruto at the Bomas of Kenya on Monday.

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata yesterday confirmed the meeting of pro-government senators.
  • President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are also expected to address the legislators, Mr Kang’ata added.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s allies are planning a meeting in Naivasha this weekend to iron out contentious issues in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

Officially, the meeting of ‘pro-government’ senators is to brief them on how the BBI proposals impact the Senate, but reports the Sunday forum could be opened to members of the National Assembly as well suggest a bigger agenda.

Senators have expressed concern over the watering down of powers of the Senate and the proposal that Cabinet ministers can only be appointed from among members of the National Assembly, not the Senate.

Coming also on the back of emerging protests by key constituencies like trade unions, women and persons living with disabilities (PwDs) disgruntled with certain proposals, the meeting of MPs is being viewed as an effort to try appease these groups.

Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata yesterday confirmed the meeting of pro-government senators and acknowledged it had been prompted by concerns about an attempt to discredit the BBI report.

“We’re at liberty as pro-government senators to meet and strategise. We shall keep the media informed as our plans firm up,” Mr Kang’ata said.

But his subsequent remarks that BBI has good proposals and “we are aware of efforts to mischaracterise it hence the need to caucus and explain to colleagues BBI gains to the Senate” signalled the forum was to counter resistance to the document.

Mr Kang’ata yesterday told the Nation they were also planning to rope in members of the National Assembly at the Sunday meeting at the Great Rift Valley Lodge.

Invite-only meeting

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are also expected to address the legislators, Mr Kang’ata added.

Sources said the invite-only meeting is to discuss the contents of the report and take a common stand to either amend the ”grey areas” or push for its implementation as is.

The venue of the talks in Naivasha hosted a meeting of MPs in 2010 where they amended the initial draft by the Committee of Experts and came up with the current Constitution that was ratified in a referendum in August 2010.

Whereas several politicians, representatives of trade unions, women and PwDs have backed the report, they have conveyed some reservations with certain provisions which they insist must be amended before its full implementation.

This is now the elephant in the room for the President and Mr Odinga in their quest to fulfil their pledge to Kenyans of delivering Constitutional changes that will strive to unite the country and address historical injustices.

The President has stressed the need for “consensus” which would mean a negotiated draft to avert a divisive referendum campaign, a goal that would be undermined if the reservations by these major groups are not addressed. 

But other sources told the Nation that the MPs will discuss the legislative procedure of passing Bills to implement the BBI report.

The meeting is planned barely two weeks after the President met the parliamentary leadership over the BBI.

After the formal launch of the report at the Bomas of Kenya on Monday, the pro-BBI group is now working towards the next phase, which includes collection of one million signatures to kick-start the process to amend the Constitution through popular initiative. 

The public campaign for the report prepared by the Yusuf Haji-led steering committee, however, faces preliminary hurdles given the reservations expressed by different players.

Ruto's misgivings

Deputy President William Ruto on Monday outlined his misgivings with the document, setting the stage for resistance.

The DP criticised the process of appointing commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), a proposal for a Judiciary ombudsman appointed by the president, the replacement of the National Police Service Commission with a council chaired by the Interior Cabinet minister and what he termed as downgrading of the Senate “by denying it roles to oversight county governments.”

Persons living with disabilities have also attacked the document saying it had short changed them.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, his National Assembly counterpart Dennitah Ghati and Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi as well as officials of their union have demanded reinstatement of parliamentary nomination slots for their members.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi also gave his misgivings on the Legislature, Judiciary, Executive, independent constitutional commissions, division of revenue as well as revenue allocation and the economy.

His sentiments were echoed by Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akello Misori.

Mr Misori said Kuppet has reservations over some proposals he argued do not augur well with teachers and other workers and vowed to push for their amendments through Parliament before full implementation of the BBI document.