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We love political storms more than the real truth

By Kamotho Waiganjo | April 23rd 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga look at their signatures 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]

Kenya’s media, of which I am an associate member, loves the sensational. The other night a popular TV station regaled us with a story entitled “Guns Galore” in which it was claimed investigations had revealed police routinely hiring guns to thugs.

Kenyans, who love to hate the policemen, not always without justification, were aghast and naturally panicked about their security.

While rogue police hiring guns may well be true, and there is enough anecdotal evidence to point in that direction, the two year expose actually showed the opposite.

In those two years that the investigation took, the daring Purity Mwambia was not able, despite much efforts, to get even one policeman to hire a gun to her or her accomplices, though she did acquire an AK 47 and an aged Browning pistol, but not from the police.

I raise this issue in relation to this week’s other sensational headlines on the “Fake BBIs” that were supposedly approved by County Assemblies, and which are now the subject of Parliamentary debate and approval.

To the media houses, our ever vibrant pundits, and those opposed to the initiative, we were now headed to a crisis.

The BBI could not proceed since only 13 counties passed the “correct” Bill. Even the Bill before the Senate was the error-ridden one. Some more outlandish claims also surfaced, alleging that some County Assemblies debated other Parliamentary reports, including the Akiwumi Report, not the amendment Bill, which was of course ridiculous.

On the face of it, different versions of the Bill did point to a crisis, until one unpacked the errors identified in the Bill in question.

At the most, what one can identify are careless errors that are unfortunate and for which the BBI legal team must take technical responsibility. The issues have to do with wrongful referencing in three Articles and erroneous marginal notes in one Article. 

A little homework would have revealed that some of these referencing errors were identifiable in the earlier released versions of the BBI and I am reliably informed that they were brought to the attention of the team.

The most natural explanation is that corrections were done before the final Bill was presented to the IEBC but at the time of forwarding the documents, some careless persons sent the correct and uncorrected versions to the Commission.

Because the errors are fairly innocuous, it was possible for this mix-up not to be noted and for both sets of Bill to go down the pipeline. There does not need to have been a nefarious conspiracy for this to occur. Someone was simply just sloppy. For a document that is so critical and a process that is so delicate, that is regrettable.

Having said that, anyone who has ever written any document that requires scores of cross referencing and which then passes through different hands, recognises the possibility of such errors. As various versions of Bills are prepared, cross references are not updated and end up in the final draft.

Fortunately, our law anticipates such possibilities. The Revision of Laws Act allows the Attorney General to correct typographical errors in all laws in circumstances like this where the intent of the makers of the law are clear and unambiguous.

In a less conspiracy loving society, this much ado about nothing would not have captured headlines.

Parliament would simply have noted errors in their report, requested the Attorney General to correct the same before the final law was published, and discussed the more substantive issues in the Bill.

But we love our political storms, even when they are in a tiny tea cup. Expect this to be milked to its bareness before we move on to the next sensation.

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