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Engine knock: BBI mixed oil and water

BARRACK MULUKA
By Barrack Muluka | May 22nd 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his speech during the launch of the collection of signatures for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) at KICC in Nairobi on November 25, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Building Bridges Initiative has suffered an engine knock. They mixed oil and water in the engine, owing to hubris, ignorance and sycophancy.

Italian philosopher Nicolo Machiavelli observed more than half a millennium ago, “There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless.”

I have been struggling to understand which of these three kinds of wisdom has driven the BBI process this far.

Outrightly dismissed was the intelligence that others understand. For when the owners of the process were asked to slow down a little, to include a bit of external wisdom in the cargo, they were urgently dismissive.

“Nobody can stop reggae,” they said, “Let us meet at the debe.” Never mind that they were also often reminded that there might be no debe to meet at.

Does it now increasingly look like there is no debe?

But, perhaps, the BBI owners understood the wisdom of those around them, and their own excellent wisdom? What shall we say of that kind of wisdom? Machiavelli again, “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” To this we may add, “And the product of that wisdom.”

In the case of BBI the product of the wisdom, this far, is failure. 

I choose to travel with Machiavelli today because this government strives to be Machiavellian, without understanding Machiavelli.

It has not understood the need for wise counsellors, even when they only echo the voice of the boss. Our council of the wise is bovine.

In its own confession, it is four-legged. It may, therefore, wake up one morning to bleat, “Two legs bad, four legs good.” Yet, in the evening, it will cheerfully be migrated to, “Four legs good, two legs better.”

I have seen in the daily press that the owners of BBI are wrestling with the possibility of changing their strategy.

The first thing they need to do is to summarily dismiss the informal government around them.

They should at once discharge the domesticated cloven-hoofed herbivores that advise them. They need individuals who can look them straight in the eye and tell them the truth.

And the truth is that while the government often attempts to operate like a criminal enterprise, the law exists to protect the people from this enterprise. 

A responsible Judiciary understands that the greatest threat to everybody is the government – simply put, the Executive.

And the Executive should never control legislation. That is why Rousseau says in chapter seven of The Social Contract, “He who rules men ought not to control legislation, he who controls legislation ought not to rule men; otherwise his laws, being ministers of his passions, would often serve only his acts of injustice. He would never be able to prevent private interests from corrupting the sacredness of his work.”  

This is where we are. The court has told us that Article 257 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) gives authority to the ordinary people to initiate change in the supreme law, to serve their perceived best interests.

The ruler, by virtue of being the ruler, is removed from the category of the people. But if he wants to become part of the people, then he must first relinquish his role as the ruler. If he is at once the ruler and the people, he offends the law. 

The law is especially offended when the ruler, while disguised as the people, signs off edicts in the name of the ruler.

That is why in the case of BBI, the person called Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta must be distinguished from H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta.

To combine the two is to mix oil and water in the engine. It will lead to a knock. That is why BBI is in the ICU. I put it to hubris (kiburi), ignorance and sycophancy. 

Dr Muluka is a politics and international relations strategist

 

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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