This week has seen two important occasions. On Tuesday, the President led the country in celebrating the 57th Mashujaa Day at the Gusii Stadium in Kisii County.
The event which was originally commemorated in honour of independence freedom fighters has since been expanded to also celebrate modern-day heroes whose efforts have led to a better Kenya. The holiday is emblematic of both strides and aspirations to fashion a more inclusive, harmonious, peaceful and prosperous Kenya.
A day later at the Kisii State Lodge, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga received the Building Bridges Initiative report. The document which contains recommendations on how to transform Kenya into a more functional and progressive society, has been a subject of speculation and debate for over a year now.
The Building Bridges Initiative is indeed another attempt to right the wrongs that have held back Kenya’s development. It arose from a highly toxic political environment and deeply entrenched divisions pitting one component of the society against the other. While the Initiative was hatched by President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the issues it canvases are affecting all Kenyans.
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Even before the report was unveiled, there have been heightened campaigns for and against it., Now that it is in the public domain, all Kenyans must judiciously discuss and debate its contents and recommendations. Certainly, not all Kenyans will agree on every single solution proposed by the BBI report. What is critical is that every voice should be heard and where better alternatives are mooted due consideration should be accorded.
Like it was with the Constitution 2010, BBI provides us another opportunity to reimagine Kenya. It should not be dismissed just because we have a constitution that is 10 years old. Even enduring democracies like the United States of America still grapple with the idea of statehood; constantly labouring to get it better every day.
Some of the BBI proposals clearly speak to the needs and aspirations of Kenyans. Take for example the suggestion to increase allocation to countries from current 15 per cent of the last audited accounts to 35 per cent. Alongside the creation of ward development funds, the increased cash flow to the devolved units would certainly spur grassroots socio-economic transformation.
A more robust approach to slay the dragon of corruption is long overdue. Kenyan is estimated to be losing up to a third of its annual budget estimates to corruption. Besides the resources, the public service is also rife with other professional misdemeanour such as dereliction of duty or looking the other way when crimes including terrorism, counterfeiting, illegal logging and poaching of wildlife are happening. The report has made suggestions whose strengths should now be subject of discussion.
On the deadly and acrimonious political process witnessed during each election and thereafter, the report recommends expansion of the Executive to include a Prime Minister and deputies. This is not a new phenomenon for the country. Kenya has had the post of Prime Minister before; something that should help promote healthy debate about the utility of such a position in Kenya’s governance process.
Across all the nine critical issues that the BBI taskforce sought public opinion, the report has laid its recommendations. I may not agree with all, but such is the nature and basis of informed and constructive dialogue. Every Kenyan craves a better country and here is an opportunity for us to the project Kenya forward.
-The writer comments on governance and politics