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Raila’s surgery in Dubai to delay release of BBI report

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By WALTER MENYA

By JUSTUS WANGA

The handing over of the Building Bridges Initiative’s report that was expected this week may be delayed further due to the hospitalisation of former prime minister Raila Odinga and the lockdown of State House as a result of the coronavirus.

There was pressure on the committee to be ready to hand in its report next week. However, the hospitalisation of Mr Odinga in Dubai, where he underwent “minor back surgery”, and the discovery of coronavirus cases at State House, which has seen President Kenyatta greatly minimise his direct interactions, has thrown that plan into jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the mandate of the BBI team, now known as the Steering Committee on the Implementation of the Building Bridges to a United Kenya Task Force, ends on Tuesday, June 30.

But Mr Odinga’s hospitalisation and the lockdown at State House after confirmation of multiple cases of Covid-19 among staff mean that the plan will remain in abeyance until the situation improves.

Steering Committee chairman Senator Yusuf Haji told the Sunday Nation that they will only hand in their report when the principals are ready.

“We have finished our report but we will wait for them to give us a date that suits them both so that we can hand over our report,” he said.

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The committee’s current mandate was to oversee the implementation of the BBI report that was launched in November 2019 by “structuring recommendations by Kenyans into implementable action plans”.

The team has been on a retreat in Machakos to finalise the report by June 30.

The uncertainty on when the report will be handed over mirrors the delay that marked the launch of BBI’s report in 2019. Then, the team had to wait one month after its mandate had expired on October 23, 2019 to hand over its report to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. The lack of clarity now affords the team some time to finish up anything that may be pending.

The Steering Committee is composed of Senator Haji as the chairman and members Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Maison Leshomo, James Matundura, Rose Museu, Agnes Kavindu Muthama, Prof Saeed Mwaguni, Bishop Peter Njenga, Archbishop Zaccheaus Okoth, Prof Adams Oloo, Senator Amos Wako, Dr Florence Omose, Prof Morompi ole Ronkei, and Major (Rtd) John Seii. The joint secretaries of the committee are Mr Martin Kimani and lawyer Paul Mwangi.

The launch of the report is key to kick-starting the referendum push to change the Constitution ahead of the 2022 General Election. Already, Parliament has published the referendum bill that is supposed to guide the conduct of such a poll while President Kenyatta has also carried out a major purge on parliamentary committees to rid them of allies of his deputy William Ruto, who have been opposed to BBI. Delays in launching the report means that there will be less time to discuss the issues therein before the much-talked about referendum.

Mr Haji, however, refused to be drawn into discussions about the substance of the BBI team’s report.

“Everything has gone on very well and the report is ready but wait until we launch it,” he said. The 14-member Steering Committee and the group of experts have this week been holed up in a Machakos hotel to write its final report.

A source in Machakos, however, told the Sunday Nation that one of the issues that came as a shock to the team at the retreat was the fierce opposition by top police bosses at Jogoo House and senior government officials to a proposal to anchor the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in the Constitution with operational and financial independence.

The proposal to make the DCI autonomous was almost a foregone conclusion within the BBI committee and the team of experts until the last-minute interventions. “Top cops have exerted so much pressure, obviously turf controls that come with control over budgets,” a source said.

The case for making the DCI a constitutional specialised criminal investigations agency had been made to the BBI team by, among others, current Director George Kinoti. The proposal had been backed up by the National Association of Retired Police Officers-Kenya (NARPOK), which called for the amendment of Article 239 of the Constitution to create an autonomous Kenya Bureau of Investigation (KBI) under the supervision of the National Security Council.

The proposed KBI would take over the expanded functions of the current DCI.

“The proposed KBI should have constitutional anchorage and independence befitting the central role that it shall play in maintenance of national peace and security,” NARPOK chairman Francis Sang, a former director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the forerunner of DCI, had told the BBI team.

In its report launched in 2019, the BBI team had recommended that the DCI be strengthened “to complement the independence of the criminal-justice system, which includes the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary.”

Those opposed to DCI becoming autonomous fear that the directorate could become rogue and uncontrollable if granted the independence.

They have also raised questions about what will happen to staff of the directorate who are police officers.

The Machakos retreat ends today, by which time the BBI team is expected to have completed its report for handing over to the principals, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

Ahead of the closure of the retreat, bits and pieces of information emanating from the negotiations room indicate that the Steering Committee could be preparing to shake up the model of representation.

Kenyans should expect “radical changes on the structure of representation” to equalise the value of every vote across Kenya and to allow for more gender representation in Parliament,” said a source at the meeting.

One of the joint secretaries, Mr Kimani, has recently alluded to major reforms in the way the country is governed.

“We can expect a BBI that will respond to the needs of unity and prosperity Kenyans desire, and which attacks corruption in a more structured way,” he said.

There are 416 MPs in the Senate and the National Assembly, including nominated members. Efforts to entrench the two-thirds gender requirement in Parliament have proved an uphill task.

In the report launched in 2019, the BBI team had recommended the creation of regional blocks as the focus of representation while the 47 counties remain as the focus of development and the provision of services. They had also recommended that the 290 constituencies be retained.

“You will know whether our proposals are radical or not after we launch the report. For now, let us wait,” said Mr Haji.

The retreat in Machakos that ends today was organised after the first one failed to resolve all the contentious issues.

The committee and the experts held the first retreat at Safari Park hotel for a week.



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