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BBI report offers chance to unify country

By Michael Cherambos | November 26th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Early this week, the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti shocked many when he claimed he plans to revisit the 2007-08 post-election violence cases. Mr Kinoti paraded 118 individuals said to be victims of the violence who were at the agency to record statements for purposes of fresh investigations into the violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands displaced.

Although Mr Kinoti retracted his statement, just like many observers, I couldn’t comprehend why it had taken the police over a decade to start seeking justice for the victims.

But one thing that the goof did was to remind the public that people fought over a presidential election in 2008.

It also served to remind Kenyans that since the reintroduction of multi-party democracy in 1991, no presidential election has played out without claiming a life, did not displace a family nor destroyed property.

In short, violence has dotted all the six presidential election we have had over the last three decades and there is little guarantee it will not happen in the future.

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However, the recently launched Building Bridges Initiative towards a United Kenya taskforce report makes a case for breaking the cycle for such violence.         

The finalisation of the BBI report a few weeks ago rightly caused quite a stir amongst both politicians and regular citizens. The final document might not include every Kenyan’s wish in the letter so imagined but, by all means, it fulfils our aspirations in spirit.  

One of most interesting piece of information that the taskforce said is that Kenyans are interested in having a Prime Minister position added to the Executive, so that voters will have better representation. 

It has become apparent for years now that people have felt that the winner takes all system isolates power into the hands of a few while other candidates who lack the majority of the votes gain no voice.

Since the Handshake of March 9, 2018, it has been rather obvious that President Uhuru Kenyatta has been consulting the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga regarding many executive decisions. This is in order to make sure that all sides have a seat at the table. The BBI seeks to constitutionalise this arrangement so that winners and losers of future elections can tap on each other’s strengths to move the country forward.

Democracy exists in many forms and is sometimes an imperfect system. Like many postcolonial states, our government is a work in progress. But we are moving towards the best democracy we can.

Another thoughtful inclusion in the report includes building a Cabinet comprised of both parliamentarians and technocrats. The technocrats running ministries would not need parliamentary approval in order to avoid “politicisation of the public service.” In other words - it would allow the professionals to do their jobs. 

The BBI report indicates that the people’s inclinations are also in sync with the current regime’s anti-corruption campaign. The task force suggests that elected officials be banned from doing business with the government. Too often it occurs here that a corrupt official uses his position to access tenders, get jobs for relatives, or make development deals that benefit their own pockets or those of family and close associates. 

This cannot be the norm. Elected officials doing deals with the government is a breeding ground for corruption, and we have had enough. 

It also suggests that the wealth of government officials be open to public scrutiny.

Currently, elected representatives have to sign a form every two years declaring all of their wealth and assets. But these forms have until now been kept in state coffers, impenetrable to journalists or the public. The BBI recommendation should inject much greater transparency into how MPs become so wealthy.

The goal of devolution all along has been to increase the power of each county so that leaders can serve their constituents in the way that suits them most. A fine balance must be struck between national and local governments. 

In order to improve how devolution practically functions, the BBI suggests that counties are allocated at least 35 per cent of national revenue. This would allow local governments to address the very specific needs of their counties, and cut out some of the bureaucracy that accompanies distribution from the national level.

The BBI is a real chance to keep President Uhuru’s wave of unity flowing through Kenya. We have admitted to ourselves the system is imperfect and changes are in order. Now that we have the full attention of the administration, the time for change has arrived.

-Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected]


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