It’s time to turn BBI into Build, Back, Better

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020 00:00 |

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has taken a huge step towards another constitutional milestone, with the anticipated collection of the required signatures ahead of a referendum.

A date for the referendum awaits pending legislation and logistics, but the BBI’s promoters are determined to ride over pockets of challenges to meet the deadline set in the Constitution. 

Organisers indicated during the launch they would in one week collect four million signatures, well above the one million constitutional threshold the IEBC must validate before ratification in county assemblies and Parliament.

While it was almost certain the final BBI report would prevail at the signature collection stage, it is politically suicidal to go for a referendum in a poisoned constitutional atmosphere.

That would go against the spirit of the “handshake” and the architects’ well-crafted political manoeuvre fronting a “win-win” or “consensus” constitutional amendment formula that for now appears to have outsmarted opponents. 

Politics is a game of intrigues and nowhere does the drama play out better than in Kenya where the adage “one week is a long time in politics” has become a tradition!

Suddenly, those publicly expressing reservations about some proposed amendments have joined the bandwagon, saying the Constitutional Amendment Bill drafted by the BBI task force unveiled last week had addressed the sticking points.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, often regarded as a voice of reason in Kenya’s tumultuous political scene concurred, backing the Bill to spearhead parallel signature collection, advising those opposed to it to reject it at the referendum ballot.

NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua, former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and economist David Ndii are leading amendment opponents through the ‘Linda Katiba’ lobby.

Deputy President William Ruto, the public face of the anti-BBI crusade, appears to be making a major about-turn, convincing ardent allies and grudging supporters to support the Bill, because the “hustler nation’s key demands” were included in the final BBI proposals. 

BBI may be temporarily solving a political problem, but leadership and integrity remains a thorny issue and the root of the socio-economic problems and corruption bedevilling the nation, stifling growth while perpetuating extreme poverty.

As BBI Express hurtles towards the referendum station, its architects must learn from the universal shock of Cov id-19 and inclusively urgently transform BBI into BBB (Build Back Better). 

Our politically fractured nation needs to heal from a wounded economy, a destroyed environment, a fragile health and education system, and food insecurity.

Kenya’s economy will contract by -0.3 per cent, possibly five per cent, with 2020 joining 1992 and 2008 as the country’s most difficult years in three decades.

The World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020 report paints a grim picture: the Covid-19 pandemic has reversed the gains in global poverty for the first time in a generation.

Between 88 million and 115 million people (Kenyans included) will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020.

 Yet Covid-19 is not the only reversal threatening poverty goals. 

Confronting conflict and climate change will also be critical to pushing poverty eradication back on track. The proposed constitutional reforms face a severe test.[email protected]

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