Strengthen civil service to implement Building Bridges Initiative report

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative task force report at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. Photo/PD/PSCU

As the year draws to a close, Kenyans need to reflect on the difficult political, economic and social challenges that continue to face the country. 

Last Saturday, I was at the funeral of my uncle, Hannington Mtula, a truly inspirational figure whose illustrious career as a public servant was extolled by mourners, including Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who urged leaders to emulate his exemplary character and streak of patriotism.

From a humble background, Mtula achieved academic success, graduating from Makerere University in 1958 before embarking on a career in teaching, then an education officer, rising through the ranks to become provincial education officer, principal of the then Kenya Polytechnic (now Technical University of Kenya) and retired as a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Cooperative Development.

His achievements were attributed to his humility, work ethic and integrity, virtues that have dissipated in the current civil service and need to be restored to address the mounting challenges of ignorance, poverty and disease, that Mtula and other distinguished public servants, diligently worked to resolve.

This final column of the year is dedicated to these admirable officials and the best honour the nation can bestow on them is to use the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to chart a new path to rebuild a civil service that is more responsive the pressing needs of the people.

BBI offers the best hope to enhance political cohesion and economic inclusion, the twin challenges that continue to cast a dark spell on Kenya’s tortuous journey to nationhood and prosperity. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila deserve support in guiding the national conversation and taking the BBI report for interrogation by the people, to whom it belongs.

With ownership of the document and their sovereign right enshrined in the Constitution, the people must be the final arbiters of the changes they want in the Constitution. Legal experts, civil society and faith-based organisations should play an active part in this process, taking people through the basics in a simple, understandable way.

The civic education ought not to be mired in the shenanigans perpetrated by the self-serving political elite and the intrigues witnessed in the Legislature and the public domain. This could derail the noble goals entrenched in the Constitution and the national development agenda.

Only when the people have scrutinised and endorsed the recommendation of the BBI report should it be ratified in a clear electoral process that entails the complete rejuvenation of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission(IEBC) that currently suffers lack of public confidence.

Failures of the body expected to play a crucial role in delivering free, fair and transparent elections has perennially flawed the democratic process and threatened to tear the nation apart every election cycle.

The Kriegler Commission report identified the root causes of the problems bedeviling this process and provided clear-cut answers to solve them. The final BBI outcome would be incomplete without entrenchment its recommendations.

Also, the Big Four agenda component is imperative in the BBI national conversation, especially the food security pillar, which offers the best hope of lifting Kenyans out of the current economic malaise.

Finally, the success of the initiative will depend on the performance of its implementers, civil servants, but only if they stick to the ideals that role models like Mtula steadfastly stood for. [email protected]

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