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BBI train is gaining momentum already

By Dennis Waweru | December 18th 2020

ODM leader Raila Odinga (second from right) escorted by nominated MP Maina Kamanda (left), Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia (third from left), Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi (second from right) and Water Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki arrive at the residence of Kamanda in Olkalou, Nyandarua county on Friday, December 11, 2020 where Kamanda hosted Odinga and several leaders from Central region and other parts of the country who support BBI report. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech during the 57th Jamhuri Day celebrations was the clearest indication that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) train had left the station and was on the right track. 

Before this, BBI critics had dismissed it as a ploy by Raila Odinga to reinvent himself politically and ascend to the presidency. As a firm believer in reconciliation, President Kenyatta extended the “handshake” to Raila as a journey towards our nationhood, with BBI being a roadmap to a long-term solution, which would not be an end in itself, but a continuous work in progress. BBI, a culmination of the March 2018 “handshake”, has key proposals aimed at ensuring inclusivity as well as end the divisive politics that have continued to dog the country every election.

Judging from the violence that permeates our nation every election cycle, change was inevitable. And history tells us that a country frequently in turmoil calls for a constitutional moment. Ever since the advent of multi-party politics in 1991, all but one presidential election in Kenya has resulted in violence.

In the 2007-2008 post-election violence, more than 1,500 Kenyans were murdered and 600,000 forced from their homes. Bloodshed was also witnessed in 2017 when the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented ruling, nullified President Kenyatta’s election and ordered a repeat of the presidential poll. Earlier, IEBC’s IT Manager Chris Msando was brutally murdered three days before the vote. This cycle of electoral violence is affecting both local and foreign investment in the country. 

It is against this background that the BBI proposes amendments to our Constitution to give Kenyans hope for a better nation. BBI incorporates the spirit of inclusion, co-creation, and justice. Regarding inclusion, the Executive has been expanded from two to five top positions, with the creation of the post of a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. With only the president and deputy president at the top, the current dispensation has resulted in exclusion in our ethnically diverse nation and become a source of discord. 

Taking cognizance of the fact that five positions at the Executive's apex are no panacea to inclusion, BBI proposes to re-introduce the position of leader of the official opposition that made significant contribution under the previous constitutional dispensation. An expanded Executive and constitutional recognition of the opposition will go a long way in reducing tension that escalates into violence every election year.

The BBI report also urges Kenyans, and particularly the leadership in the public sector, to build systems that embrace merit while broadening inclusivity. It is especially crucial that political parties actively seek out and promote aspirants to elective office who, in addition to their political skills, are competent individuals. 

BBI also proposes legal and political systems that carefully balance between equity and equality. There is no doubt that Kenya has a continuing legacy of marginalisation of some groups and areas. This is combined with existing pervasive under-servicing in many parts of the country. Through BBI, the needs of the marginalised and under-served will be met. On the economic front, BBI focuses on the equalisation of opportunity for all Kenyans, no matter their age, ethnicity, religion, or gender, as the primary aim of economic policy. We can only succeed in building wealth as a nation if we minimise the barriers to opportunity.


Tremendous success

On co-creation, the spirit of the first amendment is a continuation and strengthening of the devolved system of governance as enshrined in the 2010 Constitution, whose framers envisaged a system where the national government co-creates solutions with county governments. Nothing has demonstrated this partnership better than the Covid-19 pandemic, whose mitigation has witnessed tremendous success, thanks to collaboration between the two levels of government. 

Accordingly, the first amendment proposes to strengthen devolution by increasing funds allocated to counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent. And in order to take development closer to the people, the amendment proposes the creation of a Ward Development Fund. It also proposes a 50:50 representation in the Senate by both men and women in order to place women at the heart of devolution. Evidently, the BBI train has left the station; and is on the right track.


Mr Waweru is Co-chair, BBI Secretariat and former MP, Dagoretti South

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