The BBI is a well-researched document; researched in the sense that it lists down Kenya’s top problems, and that’s great because the first step towards solving a problem is diagnosing it. The report’s recommendations are however not satisfactory; they remind me of when as college students while working on our thesis we’d spend the whole semester researching on the topic but took the least time on the final chapter-recommendations as we were too close to the deadline, so we just jumbled up stuff and hoped it made sense.
Kenya’s laws, like any other country, have been developed over the years of amendments, occurrences, experiences, and events. That’s how jurisprudence is built. Replacing the constitution took us ages; its promulgation in 2010 was just but an event, a tip of the iceberg. Beneath it lay a mountain in years of discussions, research, and experiments on what would work and what wouldn’t. We do not have a constitutional crisis. Our constitution is functional, and amending it should only be on a necessity basis, otherwise coming up with a jumble of amendments every so often can only lead to another patch-filed non-functional constitution like the one we once had.
We have a corruption problem, we fight after every election, the Judiciary doesn’t get enough convictions, we are broke, and the youth are unemployed. These are amongst our most pressing problems, as the report rightly states. These are problems that have been with us for a while. We have partially solved them through legislation. The separation of powers tried to solve the judicial problem; there have been various commissions, including the National Cohesion and Integration Commission for the Post-Election Violence problem and Vision 2030 for the unemployment and economic woes. We’ve not given them enough time or support to see their results; we just keep finding replacement solutions before implementing the ones we already have. A council of elders may have recommendations on how they think it should be done, and they are right, but there’s no way theirs is going to be the panacea. No amount of political bulldozing will ever legitimize a quick fix. It’s like fixing a leaking drum with a piece of bar soap; it stops leaking for a while but leaks on soon enough.
In the report, I find recommendations such as rewarding whistle-blowers. What’s a reward for if there are no proper witness protection structures? What’s witness protection for it the accused will never be convicted? The fixes we need are rather procedural. They cannot all be done at once, as the BBI attempts to. Let’s have a task force to fix a structure at a time. We could start with the Judiciary; get a legal panel to look into the issues causing the delays; get the Evidence Act amended it that’s what it takes. Once done, we can go to the post-election violence problem; let’s have politicians go in and stay in for incitement to violence. Let already existing laws be enforced, let party memberships be based on ideologies and not ethnicity, we could stop registering new parties as we did with churches to build the already existing ones into real parties and not tribal gangs as they are now.
The unemployment issue can then be addressed and not by mere aspirations in legislation but by real action, let’s have employment records through the Huduma Number portals or whatever other national data portals, that way we know who has what skills and from the records know where to invest and as an end result utilise labour that is in abundance whilst still meeting our development goals as envisaged in vision 2030.
In a nutshell, the report is a quick fix, thus unsustainable even if fully implemented. There’s a reason real scholars are not part of the BBI debate; it’s got hidden political agendas that keep piercing through the wrapping. It’s good for a speech. It’s an aspiration; now let’s work to implement the solutions we already have before hunting for more.