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BBI charts the path to equality and will take everyone on board

By Priscilla Nyokabi | January 24th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) flanked by Former Prime minister Raila Odinga and Deputy William Ruto at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi during the official launch of the Building Bridges to a United Kenya Taskforce Report. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Every time my family and I leave my mother’s home in Othaya, she prays for us with the words: “May God grant you a safe journey for the vehicles you will use are made by the hands of men.” This is my prayer as I write this analysis on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Like my mother would say, the Bill is prepared by the hands (and minds) of men and women, whose weaknesses and prejudices may affect their understanding or appreciation of nation-building. Be that as it may, the Bill has many positive attributes.

Diverse societies like ours are invariably complex. It is not easy to balance the interests of so many communities that co-exist in Kenya.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BB) is essentially a stability project — an effort at bridging the divisions that afflict our nation.

The Handshake, while a gentleman’s agreement, needed to be cemented in the law thus the Constitutional Amendment Bill. In this article, I highlight some of the things contained in the Bill.

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Economy and shared prosperity

The Constitution recognises the need for an economic system that provides equitable opportunities for all Kenyans to benefit from economic growth in a comprehensive, fair and sustainable manner thus shared prosperity by all. This is one of the biggest hallmarks of the BBI.

We have been traditionally oriented to spend more time and focus on sharing the cake; it is now time to spend as much energy on baking the cake.

We must have an economic system that encourages wealth creation and equitable sharing of the proceeds.

The government, on the other hand, is required to promote productivity, investment, industrialisation, sustainable sources of livelihood including agriculture, pastoralism and blue economy, support small and micro-enterprises and infrastructure that supports the digital economy.

Every Kenyan is a stakeholder in our economy and we must share in its prosperity.

Responsibilities of a citizen

This proposed new Article (18A) is an attempt at addressing our national ethos deficit — the national character of a Kenyan. One can easily pick out a Tanzanian out of a crowd because of the national values they embody. Tanzania has more than 120 tribes (almost three times Kenya’s 47), but they’ve succeeded in inculcating a sense of nationhood among its people. Can we share a set of moral values that make Kenya one nation? Every citizen has a responsibility to cultivate national unity respecting Kenya’s ethnic, intellectual, economic and cultural diversity.

Rights of Kenyans

The Bill of Rights is a hallowed Chapter of the 2010 Constitution. This Chapter together with Schedule 4 on sharing of functions between the National and County governments have largely remained untouched by BBI’s proposed changes.

The only improvement on the Bill of Rights is implementation, especially Article 43 rights of health, housing, water, food, education and social security. One careful amendment, however, is proposed in Article 31 on the Right to Privacy to protect personal data.

War on corruption

When the BBI taskforce was collecting views from Kenyans, corruption emerged as one of the most pressing and complex challenges.

To bolster the fight against graft, the Bill proposes an amendment on Article 80 to provide for effective and expeditious investigation, prosecution and trial of cases touching on leadership and integrity. In my opinion, the period to hear and determine such cases should be capped at between six months and one year.

Gender principle

The country has been grappling to comply with the two-thirds gender principle, which culminated in an advisory from the Chief Justice asking the President to dissolve the Parliament. To address this issue, the Bill proposes various measures.

For instance, it amends Article 82 of the Constitution to introduce sanctions for a political party that fails to comply with the principle that not more than two-thirds of the party’s candidates are of the same gender. It’s common knowledge that one of the major bottlenecks for participation of women in politics has been party tickets and nominations.

70 extra constituencies

To ensure fair representation and resource distribution, the amendment Bill creates 70 more constituencies to bring a total of 360 from the current 290.  The 70 new constituencies will be allocated to under-represented areas using the population quota of one MP for a population of 132,000.

IEBC will have six months to delimit the new constituencies for use in the next election. Whichever way you look at the BBI and the attendant Bill, Kenyans stand to benefit immensely from the proposed changes.

-The writer is former Nyeri Women Representative, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a Commissioner with the National Gender Equality Commission

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