KENYA: Catholic Bishops Disagree with Sections of BBI Proposal

NAKURU, NOVEMBER 13, 2020 (CISA)-The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops have differed with a section of proposed constitutional amendments presented in the Building Bridges Initiative Report.

“Listening to what many Kenyans are saying across the country, there is urgent need to give them opportunity for a review of the report with regard to some of the issues raised therein,” reads a statement released on November 12 during their Plenary Assembly at Subukia Village of Mary Shrine, Nakuru.

The bishops disputed sections on the expanded executive, the increased number of national assembly representation, the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Creation of the Kenya Police Council.

Even though proposals for the expanded executive were to reflect the face of Kenya and tame the “winner-takes-it-all” structure, the bishops warned that the amendment could be creating the same problem it is set out to solve.

“To give the president the power to appoint the Prime Minister and the two deputies risks consolidating more power around the president thereby creating an imperial presidency,” they said rooting for the principle of separation of power terming it “the backbone of democracy.”

“We do not want more government, but better government,” they said in reference to a proposal to expand the Senate to 94 members and the National Assembly to 363 which they say “will be a huge burden to the tax payers of this country who are reeling with a huge wage bill supporting the present number of legislatures.”

On the proposal to have political parties appoint members of IEBC the bishops say it is “a dangerous one since it will politicize IEBC hence compromising its independence. This proposal will turn IEBC into a political outfit with partisan interests.”

They further cautioned on proposed formation of a Kenya Police Council headed by the Cabinet secretary of Interior with four other members replacing the existing Independence Police Oversight Authority (IPOA). The prelates say “…it is likely to make Kenya a police state and compromise the independence of the police from the Executive.”

“At this point, we want to strongly remind all actors, including ourselves as bishops, that this process has serious implications for the future of this country,” they said inviting those involved in the process to “help Kenyans understand in a simple way the contents of the report, pointing out clearly specific proposals and their implication.”

According to the understanding of the BBI report the prelates see it addressing issues on three levels; legislative, policy, Administrative and institutional proposals and constitutional proposals which not all of them require a referendum to address.

In the wake of Covid-19 which has affected the economy the bishops questioned the timing for the referendum. “Can the country afford to spend its very limited resources in a referendum when there is a struggle in the education and health sectors to provide for urgently needed support due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic?” the bishops quipped.

The conference resounded calls not to have the referendum debate be a political competition instead it should be a debate about Kenyans.