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Address poll malpractices, they fuel most of our woes

By John Ndeta | October 24th 2020

While receiving the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report in Kisii, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the serpent is out. His figurative speech drew instant reactions online. 

BBI is a product of the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyata and Raila, the two protagonists in the 2017 General Election. And so, what was and is the root cause of chaos every election cycle? If that was identified and addressed in the BBI report, then it is something worth embracing by all Kenyans.

In my assessment, the problem lies in electoral malpractices and lack of will to do what we say and have written in our laws. While the proposals in BBI sound good, they may not be much different from the spirit of the laws we already have.

Our problem as a nation is our inability to implement what we say and write in our key documents like the Constitution purely because of warped frames of mind. This has a lot to do with our belief systems: you can steal as long as you don’t get caught, your tribe comes before others, qualifications and merit; you must be in power to get services and what is rightfully yours!

The 2010 Constitution fully addressed these issues – take for instance Chapter Six on leadership and integrity - but we refused to implement it.

BBI appears to gloss over our problems by dangling carrots to the political leaders and doesn’t come anywhere near addressing our root problem as a nation.

The proposal to expand the executive doesn’t deal with the electoral malpractices.

In fact, what we may end up with is bloated structure at the national and county level which only increases the recurrent wage bill - an already growing challenge, with the national debt standing at 6.7 trillion equivalent of 65.7 per cent of GDP as at the end of June 2020. This is phenomenal and will increase even more considering that only 10 years back, the national debt was less than 40 per cent of our GDP. BBI seems big on the interests of the politicians than the ordinary mwananchi. 

Clear losers in an election are to be nominated or incorporated in the governance of the nation.

Youth issues

The current Constitution also demands of the President, for instance, to make his government inclusive. Why form more commissions like the judiciary Ombudsman when we have the Commission on Administration of Justice and a Youth Commission when we have a ministry addressing youth issues?

Why do we need to amend the Constitution in the name of dealing with corruption when we failed to implement Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity?

The BBI report further proposes to remodel the parliamentary system by bringing the government back to the House including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Cabinet ministers, the Attorney General and leader of the Official Opposition.

This is exactly where we were before the 2010 Constitution and we demanded for clear separation of power in the arms of government.

The report is big on sharing the shrinking national cake among leaders than baking a bigger national cake for all Kenyans to have a share. Whatever we do should empower the citizenry. The moment we fail to do just that, we miss the point.

All effective governments come into power with an ideology, an agenda and policies to implement. There is no way an elected government can keep to its fidelity when it becomes a coalition of competitors. The idea of sharing out positions at the top may not augur well for harmony in government and service delivery.

We already tested this version proposed by BBI during the Kibaki regime, and it did not take us long to realise that arrangements that look like coalitions don’t work and will only lead to more divisions across the nation.

Truth is, most of Kenya’s problems would have been long solved had we fully and faithfully implemented the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that was lauded worldwide as a pro-people Constitution.

The BBI report is finally out. It is important to read it take note of the details before making a decision. It is a moment of self-reflection by every Kenyan who cares about the country’s democratic health. It is time to make decisions that are in the best interest of the nation.

-The writer is a communications practitioner. [email protected]

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