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Why Parliament should be BBI report’s next destination

By Aden Duale | December 3rd 2019 at 11:53:20 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta reads through the Building Bridges Initiative report when he received it at State House, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

The Building Bridges Report has been unveiled, paving the way for bold and honest debate on the way forward for Kenyans.

The document has weighty recommendations on the structure of government, devolution, inclusivity, representation and the fight against corruption.

Keeping with the principle of “read then comment”, it would now be in order to give feedback on the document, having seen it and gone through it.  

The recommendations, if implemented, will enhance efficiency in the manner in which the Executive and Legislature execute their roles and more women are represented in elective posts.

It will ensure counties have adequate funding to perform their functions and root out corruption in the public service. The BBI taskforce, on the whole, did a good job. Moving on, now that we have the report, it’s important to look at what next.

The recommendations call for administrative and legislative solutions. In fact, I would say at least 80 per cent of the recommendations report require legislative interventions.

The report should, therefore, find its way in Parliament for debate and referral to the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee which is mandated to oversee matters relating to review and implementation of the Constitution.

This committee will then be expected in an objective manner to isolate aspects that will require the amendment of the Constitution for them to be implemented and also map out the recommendations that will require amendment of Acts of Parliament.

Unfortunately, even before Kenyans have fully internalized the report, debate is already picking on whether to have the recommendations implemented through a referendum or through Parliamentary Initiative in terms of Article 256 of the Constitution which confers upon Parliament the role of amending the Constitution through passage of Bills that do not touch on matters under Article 255 of the Constitution.

However, such a debate should be informed by facts. Fact number one: Are those calling for referendum aware that for you to go to a referendum, it has to relate to matters touching Article 255 of the Constitution? Have those calling for a referendum read the report to see whether it contains matters relating to Article 255 of the Constitution?

Most importantly, are those calling for a Referendum aware that there exists no Referendum law to govern the process? This is similar to calling people to eat when you have no firewood or food to cook.

There’s also the issue of exorbitant costs involved. Would you rather spend and waste billions of shillings on matters that do not require referendum instead of using the same billions to provide services to Kenyans?

Those calling for a referendum should also be alive to Article 257 of the Constitution, which provides for amendment of the Constitution through a popular initiative that ends up in referendum, that there exists no law to govern the legal vacuum that arise from Article 257 of the Constitution? The Punguza Mzigo initiative, for instance, ended on a death knell through Article 257 of the Constitution.

When calling for a referendum, we should also be aware of the polarizing nature of such campaigns which will hurt the economy through disruptions of businesses.

One cannot, therefore, understand whether those calling for a referendum are doing so out of ignorance or mere hypocrisy with a hidden agenda. Whereas it is their right to call for a referendum, anyone with Kenyans in mind should be fully aware of both the intended and unintended consequences.

Let’s be cautious not to allow the BBI report to be just another report that shall gather dust somewhere in a locker! We have been there before! The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report gathered dust and continue to gather more dust somewhere in a locker. The Kriegler Report gathered dust. There are many others gathering dust.

The BBI Report should not suffer the same fate. We should not take that route. It’s one of a kind report which if implemented can certainly bring a smile in the face of Kenyans. For this reason, what next for the Report? Let it come to Parliament for it to be acted on.

The writer is the National Assembly Majority Leader.

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