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Major fallout in BBI team as Seii disowns report

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Major fallout in BBI team as Seii disowns report by Kenyans247(1): Fri 06, November, 2020 05:31pm
What you need to know:

A row has erupted in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team after a committee member yesterday sensationally disowned sections of the report that is awaiting public approval.
Major (Rtd) John Seii, who sat in the 14-member committee chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, alleged doctoring of articles touching on the executive, legislature and the judiciary.

Committee members, he added, were kept in the dark about the document until four days to its launch by President Kenyatta and his ‘Handshake’ partner Raila Odinga a week ago. He claimed that the team neither discussed nor approved the additional 70 MPs that are now in the final report.

But three other members of the team— including Joint Steering Committee Secretary Paul Mwangi, Bishop Lawi Imathiu and another member who did not want to go on record— rubbished Major (rtd) Seii’s claim, saying the process was transparent.

According to the retired Major, the team neither discussed nor were they okay with the inclusion of the judiciary ombudsman—a presidential appointee who will have a huge say in the reprimand of court officials.

In a radio interview, he said the committee was especially alarmed about the proposal to increase the number of MPs to 360—with the extra 70 picked from selected constituencies based on population.

Add 70 more MPs
“We are very surprised to hear that we want to add 70 more MPs. Where did that come from? And who had said where these 70 will go or how they will be distributed? We did not! I want to tell the country: There was never a discussion on the number of MPs and constituencies. We did not want to burden Kenyans further. If it came from experts. That is theirs,” he said in an interview with Emoo FM, a Kalenjin language broadcaster.

In an interview with the Nation, Major Seii said he believes in the first BBI report that was released in November 2019. When they met to append their signatures, experts told them the second report was a replica of the first one only that it was given a legal touch and were thus asked to sign on the dotted line. Why did he sign something he did not believe in?

“I signed it in trust because we had not read it. What would I have done yet we were told that time was running out and we needed to print copies for the launch? It was very awkward for me. Initially, we were supposed to be given time to read it,” said Major Seii, adding that if he been given time, he would have raised objections about the three issues.

“We were dealing with nine thematic areas. Where did the issue of adding MPs, for instance, come from? It was not part of public views,” he said. The retired major has also been accused on social media of being an ally of Deputy President William Ruto and thus wanting to discredit the report. Mr Ruto allies have come out to oppose the report and vowed to shoot it down in the upcoming referendum.

“You may say what you want due to my last name. But I am not speaking for anyone. I have been told that I was appointed by Mr Ruto. We were all nominated by President Kenyatta and I do not know who forwarded my name. Only he can say that,” said the former military man. Does he have evidence of the changes?

“I am a soldier and a man of conviction. Those who know me can tell you that. I say what I believe in. I did not call a press conference to say it. I was just explaining the report to my people on a vernacular radio when someone asked a question on the contentious issues and I answered honestly. I did not ask for this. It found me.”

He singled out the proposal on judiciary ombudsman, saying the committee had not agreed to have it in the report and “we felt as structured, the ombudsman is like the prefect of the Judiciary.”

He also seemed to pour cold water on the creation of the prime minister post and two deputies to address inclusivity, instead suggesting that the team preferred the creation of the official leader of opposition as a better way to solve the sharing of the political cake.

Shadow Cabinet
“The idea of prime minister, really, was just about an attempt to address the winner-take-all mantra. But we wanted the number two (in a presidential race) to be the leader of official opposition. If, in a situation, the runners-up has 48 per cent, how do you tell them they have no leadership, no position? Not fair. We wanted a strong office of an opposition leader with a shadow Cabinet, and well-funded,” Maj (Rtd) Seii said.

The Nation tried to contact him to provide evidence on the existence of another draft with the above proposals but he did not return our call or text messages. The Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders chairman said after taking a break following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in March, the team was only called back on a Friday, the weekend before Mashujaa Day, to append their signatures on a document he said they had not reviewed or seen.

The BBI report was launched a day after the fete in Kisii. On that Friday, he said, the team was given only a sneak peak of what the experts had prepared, asked to sign an already prepared report, with the signatures then duplicated in the other bound reports, before the document was taken to the Government Printer over the weekend ahead of the Wednesday October 21 report handover in Kisii.

“And I just want to state categorically today: We did not have a say or a look at the report so that we know what the experts have said is what Kenyans told us,” Maj (Rtd) Seii said.

All the 14-member team got, the elder said, was a summary of the report, one he said was not enough to decipher the nitty-gritties of the document, and even if they did, there was not enough time to go through it.

Divergent views
“In my own thinking, the fact that we were called on Friday, with the plan to hand over the report on Tuesday, was deliberate. This is because they knew if they called us earlier, we would have had so many questions. That meant that even if we wanted, there was no time to revisit the document,” the Kalenjin elder said. On the last day of signing the report, he explained, the team was joined by Mr Odinga and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, which he said gave them the idea that all was well with the report, only to be surprised later. But BBI Joint Steering Committee Secretary Paul Mwangi rubbished Maj (Rtd) Seii’s comments, saying, “I am very surprised he will make such a statement.”

“We held several retreats towards the end of our mandate as a committee and we went through the issues and we made decision on each and every one of them, and the record is clear that there was consensus on all those issues on the table,” Mr Mwangi told the Nation.

Bishop Imathiu said the committee was kept abreast of the issues and what was released captures the views of Kenyans: “Of course when we gave the views of Kenyans to experts, we expected them to put it in legal language and make it better. But we all signed the report under no duress and I did not witness any objections.”

Another member of the 14-member team who did not want to be quoted said that though some issues led to differences in the committee, the report was able to capture all divergent views.

“Of course we had divergent views. But what ended up in the report was about what Kenyans wanted not what we wanted,” revealed the BBI member who did not want to talk on record due to the sensitivity of the matter.

lndungu@ke.nationmedia.com palangat@ke.nationmedia.com


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