BBI team should use extended term to deliver reforms

Monday, January 6th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left), with his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI taskforce chairman Yusuf Haji during the launch of the BBI report at Nairobi’s Bomas of Kenya. Photo/PD/FILE

Cornel Rasanga

Out of a desire to tame campaign hostilities, electoral malpractices and ethnic rivalries, sworn Kenyan political foes reconciled their differences in a rare gesture. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta  and opposition leader Raila Odinga  swore to end the cycle of election acrimony that has cost lives, displaced citizens, destroyed investments and undermined national unity. 

As part of the reconciliation pact, Uhuru and Raila established the  Building  Bridges Initiative (BBI), an entity tasked to help Kenyan understand the intention of the March 9, 2018 Handshake. 

Former President Daniel arap Moi prophesied that deeper ethnic division would emerge with the re-introduction multipartism. It came to pass. The country was zoned into tribal enclaves  and ethnic clashes preceded subsequent polls. 

Key among the nine terms of reference for the BBI Advisory Task Force was divisive elections that open old wounds and inflict new ones every election year.

Elections are a mirror of the retrogressive culture of our society that engenders inequality. 

For instance, existing ethnic division, dominance plots, marginalisation amongst other problems are domiciled in election campaigns  and political alliances  that are not for the common good but isolation of  some communities.  

From the look of things, teams crafted out of the  ashes of post-election violence  commissioned to  diagnose root causes of emerging  problems  have abdicated  that role  in their nicely worded  reports.   

There will  be no other time to address comprehensively problems  in  Kenya than now that President Uhuru has gazetted the extension of the  BBI mandate. Its renewed mandate comes with renewed hopes and expectations. The team should turn a deaf ear to criticism by detractors.

Disappointed by the extension of the BBI team’s mandate are lawmakers  who were ready to mutilate its report to suit the whims of the political class as was the case with the harmonised draft of the 2010 Constitution, which resulted in, among other  things, the removal of the  post of Public Defender, the watering down of Senate powers and rendering devolved units less autonomous. 

Kenyans expect a recommendation on improvement, or overhaul, of the current election and party nomination rules to avoid chaos, bribery and chauvinism. 

Purge of poll commissioners as recommended by the BBI after every election will be an exercise in futility. Wounds  inflicted  by  recurrent electoral chaos have not been healed by  the dissolution of the Issack Hassan-led  commission and the pioneer   Electoral Commission of  Kenya. 

Proportional representation system could be a cure to, among other things, elusive gender parity, voter bribery, violence and derogatory references.

In the system, the electorate choose parties not individuals. Use of electronic voting system should be audited to unravel what ails the current system. Audited results should be used to seal loopholes. 

Lawmakers’ appetite to mutilate documents must be tamed if we are to avoid another crisis of monumental proportions. 

Parliament doctored the current Constitution, re-opened the Bomas  draft Constitution for abortive revision in Naivasha and Kilifi. The 1963 Constitution was also mutilated beyond recognition. 

The cash flow problems experienced by county governments could also be a thing of the past if the BBI report is implemented. The recommendation to increase allocation to the units from 15  to 35 per cent of  audited national revenue is great.  

One thing is certain: local problems deserve home-grown solutions. Uhuru and Raila did exactly that when they settled for a truce. — The writer is Siaya County Governor — [email protected]

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