BBI triumph in Parliament mirrors referendum outcome

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 07:54 |
Parliament buildings.

Kenyan voters are set to make the verdict on Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 following triumphant passage of the Bill by both houses of Parliament. What was seen to be an intractable battlefront by the legislators, turned out to be an easy sail with the Bill garnering massive support, not witnessed in the recent activities of the August House. It was indeed a continuation of wins for the handshake born Bill at every stage since it was first taken to Kenyans for collection of signatures.     

If one were to gleam the fate of the Bill in the upcoming plebiscite, it is increasingly clear that Kenyans will endorse the document; as the desired constitutional changes are aimed at advancing the country’s quest for better governance frameworks that deliver value to the citizens. While it may have been proposed by President Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga, the Bill has gone through the requisite constitutional processes and has so far proven to resonate with the electorate.

 At different stages, the Bill has attracted quite a bit of debate. This was a necessary and indispensible component of Kenya’s democratic culture. The issues raised by those opposed to the constitutional changes were however eclipsed by the good that the Bill is set to usher in. Kenyans want a stronger devolved system marked by more resources to the counties. Kenyans want to see a more inclusive structure of governance and an end to endemic corruption that has drained our productive sectors.

As was evidenced during the debate and voting on the Bill in Parliament, even legislators who had expressed concerns with certain provisions of the document in the end voted in favour of the document. Therein lies the realization that agitation is not rejection; it is only an attempt to make better what is good. That spirit should guide the larger public as the document moves to the referendum stage.

Imperfect as it is, the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 presents an opportunity for the country to make progress. President Uhuru Kenyatta demonstrated his willingness to bridge the divide for the benefit of the country. He did this at the risk of fraying relations with allies who did not believe in the handshake. Similar magnanimity defined Raila Odinga’s decision to embrace his political opponent in order to return the country to the path of peace, stability and prosperity.

From their own experiences, the two principals understand only too well how unsettling their decision was to allies and foes alike. Now pulling in the same direction, they must keep reaching out to the country with the objective of not only uniting but also forging long lasting atmosphere of trust, and amity in the advent of constitutional changes.

Kenyans should not go to the referendum divided on political, ethnic or religious bases. Rather, the discussions should be based on ideas and the need to shape a better country. This can only happen in the backdrop of effective voter sensitization on the contents and aspirations of the envisaged constitutional changes. There should be no room for political polarization and deceit; elements that have been used by those opposed to the handshake and subsequent drive to change the constitution.

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