Everything has a price including peace. And, if the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will break Kenya’s sequence of post-election violence and restore sanity then it is worth it. These are the sentiments of Government Spokesman Col rtd Cyrus Oguna, as he addressed the press in Nairobi on Tuesday morning.
Oguna urged Kenyans to read the BBI document and make an informed decision based on their own conscience and not rhetorics fed by political leaders.
“We’ve been experiencing cyclic bouts of violence after elections. The idea of the BBI is a momentous initiative by the government... we urge every Kenyan to get the BBI report and read it before making an informed decision,” he said, as he proceeded to add, “Let’s not be swayed by noise in the system…there will always be noise within the system.”
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The government official argued that the huge price tag attached to the exercise would mean nothing disastrous if Kenyans are assured of reaping fruits of peace.
“Let’s be contextual and visionary in our thinking. If this can bring us peace so that Wanjiku can vote and go back to her home, then let’s support this thing.
Everything that happens has a cost to it. And if this BBI will give us peace then whatever is said in terms of cost implication is a price that we have to pay for the peace. Even peace has a cost.,” he said.
He gave an example that the process was similar to a case where the country could decide to spend Sh1 billion to save Sh100 billion in the long-run.
Questions over the projected cost of holding a referendum have been up for discussions, with critics of the process viewing it as a waste of time and money.
In particular, Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have been averse to conducting a referendum saying the country has a lot on the plate to deal with, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ruto, who has been championing for a non-contested plebiscite, changed tact and has been vocal in calling for multiple-choice questions in the referendum, as well as fronting the idea of holding a referendum concurrently with the 2022 General Election.
“It is our submission that we hold the proposed referendum in 2022 together with the General Election. This will save costs and re-direct the limited resources at our disposal to mitigating the effects the Covid-19 pandemic,” the DP tweeted on December 2.
Politics in BBI
But days later, ODM leader Raila Odinga accused the DP of lacking the boldness to oppose the document saying his suggestions were impractical.
“Having six ballot papers is already a challenge to some Kenyans. Adding another one will be a major challenge for them,” he said during his visit to Kisumu on December 8.
“We already have voters who need help during the process. If you were to ask them questions, you will be subjecting them to an examination and that is not possible.”
Speaking during the launch of the Kenya Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta persuaded the dissenters on the BBI to drop their hardline stands. According to the President, the initiative does not seek to change the constitution but just to amend a few areas in a progressive move.
“The need to change our Constitution has been with us for some time. We need to strengthen the 2010 Constitution together. We are only amending it, not changing it. The first of many to come over time as Kenyans change and evolve,” he said. He explained that the BBI would bring peace by dealing with the waves of violence which emerge after every poll.
Last week, on December 11, IEBC confirmed receiving 4.4 million signatures from the BBI secretariat but maintained that the verification would only begin upon receiving funds from the treasury.
“We have put in place all the measures, including a committee to oversee the process. Once the National Treasury allocates us cash, we will begin the signature verification,” said IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.