BBI: Rollout starts but big questions remain

October 30, 2020 - 5 Minutes Read - By The Vellum Team

Deputy President William Ruto took on proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative at the launch of the report last Monday with a number of well-put questions. He dwelt on the proposed expansion of the Executive, the return of the mongrel system that has Members of Parliament being appointed to the Cabinet and the creation of new positions.

Later in the week, he joined calls for an uncontested referendum when the time comes; a proposal that should be welcomed by the BBI’s proponents as it helps them avoid destabilizing the country in the course of implementing the report, the original thinking behind the initiative.

The proponents of the initiative are yet to state how consensus will be reached and the Deputy President’s allies have already complained of being left out of a meeting in Naivasha on Sunday to discuss the way ahead.

In the meantime, the rollout of the implementation kicked off this week with the news that the leadership of the National Assembly has planned a series of meetings to firm up on the Bills needed to implement some aspects of the BBI. The Bills represent some of the low-hanging fruits, such as the Higher Education Loans Board and the Judicial Service Bill, the referendum Bills and the Ward Development Fund Bill. They constitute the easy work.

The hard work will certainly be in putting together the Bill to amend the Constitution and although there is a team of smart lawyers working with the BBI team, getting consensus will certainly take time and patience.

This week, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo said they intend to take the popular initiative rather than the parliamentary route, which will involve getting a million signatures and then getting the approval of more than half of the County Assemblies.

A significant challenge lies in the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which currently has three commissioners against the optimum seven. Among the BBI proposals is the reorganization of the IEBC, which has opposed the idea and drafted its own amendment Bill.

Antipathy against the current team has started, with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga attacking them for stating that the referendum would cost Sh14 billion, with the implied statement being that Kenya cannot currently afford it. Mr Odinga has said it should cost Sh2 billion and accused the IEBC of preparing to rip off the taxpayer.

With a Deputy President threatening to oppose the proposal to amend the Constitution and the proponents seemingly unprepared to accommodate or start the consensus-building process, it is evident that the BBI process will need more time.

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