Countdown as BBI team works on referendum Bill

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Steering Committee plans to release a draft referendum Bill before the full report that will recommend administrative and policy changes.

This Bill may be out before June, when the committee’s term ends, which would then allow a million signatures to be collected to kickstart the process.

“We can release a draft Bill on issues that require the change of the Constitution. On the other issues, it might not just be enough to change the law but propose the appropriate law and such might take a while,” the BBI joint secretary, Mr Paul Mwangi, told the Nation.


“We are asking ourselves, of those things that the committee agrees on, do we serve them first, or should we keep Kenyans waiting?” said Mr Mwangi.

Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, who chairs the team, said they will give recommendations in three phases: administrative, legislative and referendum changes.

The Senate Minority Leader, Mr James Orengo, who has been leading calls for a referendum, supported the plan.

“Now that the Haji team has finished receiving views in its validation hearings, the next thing would be to write the report and hand it in with a draft Bill, which can happen way before the June deadline,” Mr Orengo said.

Last Tuesday, the BBI committee wrapped up its validation hearings and has now retreated to write what could be Kenya’s biggest, most consultative attempt yet to change the Constitution.

The team has received views from the rallies that were held in Kisii, Kakamega, Mombasa, Kitui, Narok, Garissa and Meru. The regions presented their views to ODM leader Raila Odinga and the steering committee. The team awaits views from Nakuru and Nairobi counties.

The team has also been holding sittings in Nairobi since February 13 to give a chance to political parties, the civil society and constitutional commissions to make proposals on their preferred changes in the 156-page report. As the committee retreats, its top agenda will be the power and functions of the proposed Office of the Prime Minister, which many feel is weak as contained in the proposals.

In its November 2019 report, the Haji team wants the Prime Minister — who will be the head of government business — to be an elected MP, appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament, but with no additional salary or allowances.

The BBI team will also have to answer the question on what becomes of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

While the team had said in its report that the current commissioners should be fired and all staff subjected to vetting, Ward Reps and election observers believe that is a bad idea.
Electoral cycle.

“Going into the 2022 General Election with a new set of commissioners will not only undermine the credibility of the elections, but it may also result in political instability,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati told the team.

“The recommendation is ill-advised and does not strengthen faith in the commission. The conduct of elections is not an event but follows a five-year electoral cycle that requires sufficient preparation, overseen by personnel with requisite knowledge and skills.”

He also opposed proposals to have IEBC commissioners nominated by political parties.

There has been a general agreement on retention of the President as the Head of State and government even with a PM in place as well as the increase of funds to the counties — with proposals ranging from 35 per cent by the BBI team to 50 per cent by the Thirdway Alliance Party.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, however, put a spanner in the works on Tuesday when he proposed that voters should not directly elect their President and governors.

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