By Mourice Seretta
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Handshake partner Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga skipped the closing ceremony of the two-day governors’ retreat in Naivasha that was discussing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report due to what is believed to be the tough recommendations the county chiefs wanted to be included in the report.
Uhuru and Raila who had earlier confirmed to attend the meeting made a last-minute decision not to show up as they opted to remain in Nairobi, busy with different engagements, leaving the county chiefs an angry lot that left the venue in a huff after making a brief statement to the media present.
Despite the fact that President Kenyatta has remained mum on the reason as to why he did not attend the meeting, Raila’s social media accounts have given hints as to what might have caused the duo to snub the meeting.
Flurry of tweets from Raila, Ruto
For instance, on November 9 after meeting with leaders from pastoralist communities, Raila took to the tweeter and said, “I appreciate having had a robust and candid discussion with leaders from pastoralist communities this morning. Their views on the BBI process that they expressed support for, are welcome and shall be taken into consideration as we formulate the way forward for our nation.”
The tweet brought about a lot of mixed reactions from several quarters with different interpretations but it was Deputy President William Ruto’s reply that was of interest.
Immediately after Raila’s meeting with the leaders from the pastoralist communities, Ruto posted on his social media accounts, “The petition by pastoralist that covers several areas in Bbi is PROGRESSIVE. The public COMMITMENT to AMEND BBI to include these proposals is a welcome step towards CONSENSUS. With this & other petitions accepted, a NON- CONTESTED discourse is on the horizon.”
On November 10, the second in command also made a follow-up post on the same saying that, “The RECOMMENDATIONS by CoG to better the workings of DEVOLUTION which has decentralized power, resources &growth centres thereby ELIMINATING marginalization deserves attention. We must RESIST the temptation to BUILD WALLS to shut out BETTER IDEAS but build a bridge towards CONSENSUS.”
It was interpreted to mean that Raila had said that he had okayed amendments to the BBI report and that the meeting in Naivasha was maybe going to rubberstamp the same.
After media was awash with news that Raila was for the amendments, he made an about-turn and sought to clarify that he had not stated to the effect that BBI was going to be amended.
He took to Twitter and posted that, “It is basically done and there is little likelihood that new ideas will be pushed into it. However, there are groups that feel their views were not captured in the manner they were presented during the collection of views and those are the corrections we are promising to make.”
He further added that “There is significantly little chance of significant new ideas being brought into the BBI document ahead of the referendum, except for editorial work to make it explicit on demands by various groups where it sounds vague or general, as is the case with the issues of pastoralists.”
The above and the fact that governors were also demanding for too much to amended in the BBI report to suit them might have jolted the duo of Uhuru and Raila.
The Governors are demanding that the report be revised to give them a free hand to pick their deputies after general elections instead of going to the ballot with a running mate and also want powers to hire and fire their deputies, as they do with members of County Executive Committees, given that BBI proposes DGs be given ministerial portfolios.
Governors also want the removal of a proposal that they choose deputies of the opposite gender, meaning mostly women deputies.
The county chiefs are also pushing for strengthening the Senate as the Upper House to protect devolution, a radical recommendation that will rattle members of the powerful National Assembly.
The Governors also propose that a pension fund is established for Governors, Deputy Governors, County Speakers and MCAs and other County State Officers as is the case with the President, Deputy President, Speakers, Members of Parliament and state officers at the national level.
They further want the removal of collective criminal responsibility in the management of resources at the county government level to align with the principle of personal criminal culpability.
Also, the county bosses want the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Service Commission to continue operating as is in the current constitution while the recommendation in the BBI document on the Judiciary Ombudsman should be deleted.
On Security they want County Governments to be involved in security matters at both the National and County level in the National Security Advisory Council and implement the County Policing Authority.
On Elections, they want the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be devolved to the 47 Counties.
Oparanya dismisses being snubbed
Those are some of the weighty matters that it is believed led to the two to snub the meeting.
However, the Council of Governors Chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya who is also the Kakamega Governor downplayed reports that Uhuru and Raila snubbed the meeting.
“Who said that they were going to attend? They never snubbed us. In fact one of the principals joined us virtually,” said Oparanya in reference to Raila who is said to could have attended the meeting on Zoom.
The Council was supposed to give the proposals to Uhuru and Raila at the meeting in Naivasha but said they were to hand it over to them on a later date.