Critics’ views vital in balancing the BBI debate

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 00:00 |

It is now apparent that intense consensus-building and civic education are required for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to win public confidence and support, before a referendum can be held.

For all its good intentions and the national face of the BBI task force, there is great need to go beyond the collection of views and the validation exercise, for its work that ended when the final report was presented to its architects.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, assured Kenyans that the initiative would fulfil its purpose to unite Kenyans and achieve consensus on national aspirations.

Kenyans need to be convinced that the envisaged changes requiring legislative and constitutional amendments, are not designed to deprive them of the huge gains made from the 2010 Constitution. 

The supreme law of the land gives citizens the sovereign power, and grants them absolute rights of public participation in any fundamental national political or socio-economic decision-making, such as those sought by the BBI. 

Since independence, politics in Kenya has been full of intrigues and behind the scenes manipulation, that the so-called “second liberation” sought to cure and culminated in the 2010 Constitution.

In endorsing and celebrating the promulgation of the supreme document, Kenyans affirmed their unwavering allegiance to a new dawn after burying the ghosts of the “dark past”.

The BBI had a strong base to fortify its work in the Constitution which enshrined and gave the people, inalienable rights they have sworn to jealously guard from any political manipulation.

Questions have emerged since the BBI report was launched at the Bomas of Kenya on October 26.

Deputy President (DP) William Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and religious leaders, have raised issues begging for tactful clear answers, without being brushed aside casually.

The DP’s lieutenants have been among the most vocal opponents of the BBI. His recent meeting with the President, seems to have slowed the momentum towards a referendum that was to begin with the launch of the collection of one million signatures.

For now, it is imperative the architects of the BBI, institute a strategic communication and civic education campaign, that has been lacking throughout the tenure of the initiative and upon its launch. 

Media veterans who have followed and understand the Kenyan political scene from independence through the protracted struggle for the Constitution, to the emergent post-Moi and Kibaki eras, are best placed to steer this strategic communications phase of the BBI, to sway public opinion.

The biggest fear emerging from the latest BBI manoeuvers is that its executors may be inadvertently clawing back some of the constitutional gains bestowed upon the people, popularly referred to as ‘Wanjiku’.

That is why maximum public participation in any constitutional amendment is paramount.

Yes, the principal aim of the BBI was to resolve the perennial winner-takes it all mentality that has characterised Kenyan elections, often leading to violence, with devastating consequences to nationhood and the economy.

BBI cannot hope to succeed in uniting Kenyans for a win-win situation, if the views of critics are not taken into consideration, especially those marginalisedd from the national cake but restored through devolution. 

The process cannot be left solely in the hands of politicians but must fully embrace the people, regardless of their status or affiliation.

A structured all-inclusive National Peace Conference is vital before the BBI moves to the next stage. [email protected]

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