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Why BBI plebiscite should come early

By Wilson Sossion | February 8th 2021

Kenya National Union of Teacher (KNUT) secretary-general Wilson Sossion.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is a progressive and transformative document that will cure many industrial and professional challenges. The report, packed with innovative and revolutionary content, is designed to drive Kenya to the next level of socio-economic development and create a wider political and democratic space devoid of cycles of political upheavals that bring our economy to a standstill every election year.

Kenyans would like a more stable and predictable political environment that is democratic and produces proper governance at the national and county levels.

Lack of jobs is a major challenge. It has led to widespread poverty, inequality and insecurity. We desperately need a shift in our economic paradigm if we are to provide adequate jobs to youths and have enough revenue to meet the service and welfare needs of Kenyans.

The BBI report has exposed political, economic and social challenges faced by Kenyans. It is now upon all Kenyans to ensure that the document is used to build a united, peaceful and prosperous country. Moreover, since the initiative is in the best interest of the country, it should be used to strengthen the Constitution.

The document has sparked lively and constructive conversations among patriotic Kenyans. However, there is a section of leaders that has chosen to invite confusion, misunderstanding, and, at times, to flagrantly misrepresent facts regarding the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Disgruntled elements within Parliament and county assemblies’ leaderships have continued to perpetuate falsehoods over the creation of office for Leader of Official Opposition, Prime Minister and two deputy Prime Ministers, arguing that the offices would be an economic burden to Kenyans.

Tangible risk

These anti-reform forces are presenting a tangible risk to the document by advancing a polarising narrative against the initiative and mobilising the electorate to reject the document in its entirety.

Despite the BBI idea and vision being noble, these treacherous leaders are determined to derail the initiative. That is why I call for the referendum to be held as soon as possible.

If BBI process is handled soberly and implemented as planned, it would be our biggest political achievement since independence. It would successfully ensure transformation of the country into a Higher Middle-Income Economy.

I implore members of county assemblies to fast-track the Bill. An early referendum will allow Kenyans to settle down and rebuild the economy, which has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and also plan for the 2022 General Election.

Civic education should be conducted without political biases. Notably, there has been skewed interpretation of the Bill and the BBI report. The main goal of civic education should be to help people fully understand their role in the constitution-making and to be wary of those out to mislead them on the Bill.

All aspects of BBI are structured in four thematic areas, namely constitutional, legislative, policy and administrative. They must therefore be dealt with expeditiously to set a clear path for the referendum and implementation of the Bill's provisions.

The BBI report has made practical recommendations and proposals designed to address the various points of contention identified by experts and stakeholders.

TSC commissioners

For example, it proposes to amend Chapter 15 of the Constitution on Commissions and Independent offices – to require constitutional commissions to enhance corporate governance practices in managing their affairs.

Based on this recommendation, the TSC Act (2012) should be amended to enhance corporate governance practices in managing teachers’ affairs. The Act should be amended within the framework of BBI to allow full participation of teachers in nomination of TSC commissioners, election of the chairperson and the deputy chairperson. That will enable teachers’ representatives to sit on TSC Board, as happens with Judiciary Service Commission, where Law Society of Kenya, Kenya Judges and Magistrates Association among other stakeholders are represented in the Board.

For teachers to realise their dreams of being adequately represented at TSC Board, the Act has to be amended to allow teachers, through their trade movements, to be incorporated in the Board.

There are only 10 clauses that would require a referendum. Rather than a referendum, other amendments proposed could go through Parliament under Article 256 of the Constitution, thereby avoiding a disruptive and heated referendum when we are months away from an electoral cycle.

 Mr Sossion is a nominated MP and Secretary-General of Knut

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