The Punguza Mizigo and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) have been on the lips of many Kenyans for some time, and for a good reason.
These two documents could potentially alter the course of our lives and that of our children for generations to come.
The talk around both documents has, however, degenerated into shouting matches and platitudes devoid of meaning and sense.
The BBI is a document that has yet to see the light of day, yet some politicians already term it as ‘ongeza mizigo’ and the blue band initiative. Such terms from these politicians are meant to cast aspersions on the report even before it is written.
This tells us they are opposed to it due to selfish political reasons and not merit. For indeed, if it was a merit-based debate, then they would wait for the report.
Further, they want us to forget that it was the handshake that breathed new life into our country.
They want us to forget the collective sigh of relief when talk of the people’s president, tear gas Mondays, an ungovernable Kenya and secession ceased overnight because of the handshake.
They forget that they, too, are beneficiaries of the handshake. For they gallivant across the nation freely due to the conducive environment that was created when the President shook hands with Raila. This political downplay of BBI is thus only birthed in the minds of those who love the status quo.
Thus, they come out to seemingly praise Punguza Mizigo fully aware that behind the popular name is an impractical bill that clashes with other parts of the Constitution and itself.
Those that support Punguza Mizigo do not address key the issues. As we convert counties into constituencies and create three legislative positions, the bill creates a powerful Senate with veto powers over the National Assembly without differentiating the voting constituency of the two.
For example, one could win the MP seat for Nairobi with 800,000 votes but he will potentially be vetoed by a senator of Nairobi who won by 300,000 votes. This doesn’t make sense and is a recipe for chaos.
At the same time, the bill does not address Senate’s limitation to only come up with bills that affect the counties.
As such how would Senate veto the National Assembly when its mandate is limited to counties.
Without addressing these clauses of the Constitution Punguza Mizigo is a joke we are taking too seriously. The initiative paints a picture on the surface that Parliament is the place where we would save the most money, yet despite their excesses, Parliament spends less than Sh45 billion a year.
If money is to be saved, it has to be in our budgeting process. Anything else is gathering up the ocean by the bucket load; lipstick on the snout of a pig.
The bill also fails to address the perennial issues that plague our nation. It speaks nothing of our national ethic, our unity and our patriotism.
Reducing the number of MPs will not address ethnic tensions in any way. It will not address the tribal nature of our politics, and it will, for sure, increase inter-tribal and inter-clan tensions, even breed war.
This is because if we implement Punguza Mizigo, some ethnic communities will never have representation in the National Assembly or Senate. These communities include Sabaots, Kurias, Suba, Tesos, Tavetas, and Mbeere.
They might not even get a deputy governor’s position. In this regard, Punguza Mizigo means ‘punguza’ democracy.
Further, Punguza Mizigo seeks to have corruption cases heard in a month and appeals to take two weeks.
This is a disaster for any criminal justice system because corruption cases are complex and require meticulous evidence presentation to be won.
A hurried system will not benefit the prosecution, but rather, the culprits. Under such a system, big ticket corruption will never face jail. Yet again Punguza Mizigo would eventually mean ongeza corruption.
In my view, Punguza Mizigo is a nicely labelled poisoned chalice. It has just enough wine to make our MCA’s drunk and to get us all tipsy. Yet it has enough poison to kill us, slowly but surely.
It will destroy our constitutional framework and even worse, destroy any hope of meaningful referendum in the next five years.
The bill was written to maintain the status quo; it was written and funded by those who want to waste our energy, money and emotions on a bill that is impractical, unamendable, populist and altogether not helpful in addressing Kenya’s main issues. Kenya, Punguza Mizigo at your own peril!