BBI LAUNCH

Have 2004 Bomas-type public participation, not divisive reggae roadshow

BBI is contradictions galore.

In Summary

• If we seek to foster unity and inclusivity via a non-contested referendum, ban leaders holding campaigns to popularise their positions.

• Let’s have mechanisms to ensure the document is understood by wananchi in an unpolluted surreal environment.

Some of the guests who turned up at Bomas of Kenya on October 26, 2020.
Some of the guests who turned up at Bomas of Kenya on October 26, 2020.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga told Kenyans to read, digest and make further suggestions on the BBI upon its launch.

They warned us not to wait for politicians to interpret the report for us, but excluded themselves. For no sooner had they photo-oped with the report at Kisii than they hit the campaign trail seeking support for things Kenyans hadn’t read. It signalled that the report is tainted with bad faith.

Media intervention to publicise the report for the public to digest it is obviously chasing the wind.

The optics at the Bomas launch suggest the two proprietors don’t expect us to believe we’d have a mind of our own other than to support their campaign version.

Their pleas betrayed nervousness. The appended schedule betrays a plot to plaster the report through Reggae rallies. What are they nervous about?

 

It’s fear that Kenyans may have contrary views on the report, that they will discover what is embedded, embellished and glossed over in the report betrays sloppy incoherence that shouldn’t be allowed to see the light of day.

As I read the report, I’m also crowd-sourcing unanimous views from Kenyans who’ve managed to peruse it ahead of me.

But my personal notes first: One, the elimination of public participation (Articles 152 and 155) in the vetting of Executive appointees by the National Assembly violates the principles of sovereignty of the people and destroys the democratic principles of checks and balances.

Two, at Bomas, Uhuru and Raila were at cross-purposes on the way forward; Uhuru insisted on a non-contested referendum but Raila vouched for the contest.

Three, if we seek to foster unity and inclusivity via a non-contested referendum, ban leaders holding campaigns to popularise their positions. Let’s have mechanisms to ensure the document is understood by wananchi in an unpolluted surreal environment.

Four, borrowing liberally from an unbridged draft of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi’s comments at Bomas:

“Let us agree to institute a structured and constructive national debate that doesn’t create a ‘Them-Vs-Us’ campaign or winners-and-losers outcome. Let’s not manufacture or clone a non-existent opposition to and against BBI. Let’s set up a mechanism to ensure peoples’ views flow freely.”

“Let’s promote public participation without turning the report dissemination into a roadshow.  Let’s respect the promise we’ve made to the public to allow them to read, absorb and digest the report first; then engage them in a structured manner. After this launch, let’s have platform for key stakeholders to interrogate and generate consensus for the document. This convening could take the format of the successful Bomas National Conference where the 2010 Constitution was midwifed.”

Now to others. In its seeming innocence, the BBI report conceals devious endorsements meant to pamper and shield the political elite from accountability.

There are a lot of carrots that have no immediate people-centred governance and economic benefits dangled — from creation premier positions to Ward Fund and appointments to the Cabinet for MPs.

 

The first stamp of deceit is the report’s copycat trimming of the Krigler, Waki and TJRC reports, Chapter 6 and 11 of the Constitution, the County Governments Act, Agenda 4 and Article 55 of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there is no single mention made to implement these mother documents, thorough as they’re.

It’s doubtful the report will be effected by leaders who failed to implement the Constitution 2010; respect the rule of law, obey court orders, practice equity and revere independence of institutions.

Their theft of public resources is rewarded by asking courts to speed their freedom within two years.

Lack of commitment to implement basic law is manifest when the report lists for amendment the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, when Miscellaneous Statutory (Amendment) Bill of 2018 amended the same Act to provide for prompt payment of all public sector suppliers within 60 days.

I’ve not seen anywhere yet where the report seeks to penalise executive fiat or attempt to disinfect our toxic politics.

Speaking of which, just how have historical grudges between the Kenyattas and Odingas — said to underpin BBI — impeded having a ward fund, tax holidays for youth startups; incubation centres; Helb grace period; gender parity; dual-gender governorship tickets; making access to parties fund inclusive and speedy resolution of court cases?

And what has happened to all the youth funds set up to justify the establishment of a Youth Commission?

Seriously, aren’t these just campaign pledges a government implements?

Aren’t you, like I, reading a Jubilee government offloading its legally binding failures to the next government? Aren’t we being fed sweeteners that camouflage real intentions?

Still, celebrations about a 35 per cent windfall of shared revenue to the counties may be pyrrhic. Ten years after we mandated “not less” than 15 per cent revenue to counties, we’ve devolution without devolving.

Juicy functions that were scheduled to migrate to the counties remain embedded in the national government with their funds.

Has the problem been a less percentage or lack of commitment on devolution? What guarantee is there to stop a cheating regime from arguing that a per cent is still “at least” 35 per cent shared revenue?

The second attraction is how the report seamlessly glosses over its clawback on governance values by pruning and emasculating separation of powers and, checks and balances principles.

The executive intrusion and expansion into the Legislature, Judiciary and independent commissions are heavy and cannot be denied. The Senate gets hit worst as all power is now concentrated in the National Assembly.

Insidiously, it will be hedged by Executive appointees such ministers, their assistants and the Attorney General: Infiltration is Executive takeover.

The anticipation that the Senate be made the upper house isn’t given a courtesy mention. An executive-appointed Ombudsman will keep watch over the Judiciary. The National Police Service Commission will be scrapped and control given to a Cabinet functionary.

BBI is contradictions galore.

There is this excitement about the return of the Office of the Leader of Opposition to the National Assembly (not Parliament). But just how the runners-up in a presidential election qualify to sit in the House without vying as MP or being nominated is withering in the mind.

The same fallacy bestrides all presidential contestants. It’s not clear whether they must vie for constituency seats to be in Parliament given party nominations are scraped. And then “Governor candidates should have a running mate of opposite gender (which is undemocratic) while curiously, it does not impose the same requirements to presidential candidates.

This shows the thinking that at the counties is where you dump unpleasant experiments”, cautions Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki.

There is stringent denial that BBI creates big and costly government.

The defence is that those who would moonlight as ministers from the National Assembly will only earn responsibility allowance, even as the report recommends scraping of allowances for salaried public employees, including MPs.

Who doesn’t know public offices earn one more allowance than salaries? If you want to cut the Sh800 billion wage bill, half of Sh1.6 billion revenue, slash allowances across board.

At Bomas, the President sounded sincere in his desire to see the country achieve inclusivity, cohesion and unity. I hold no brief for Deputy President William Ruto but he dared where others were cowered.

How do you achieve “inclusivity” against winner-takes-all by expanding the Executive where a winning presidential candidate with a majority in Parliament, appoints the premier and deputies who must command the majority support?

Yet the President can sack the MP at whim without reference to National Assembly that nominated him or her?

He also asked, "How do you empower women when you remove them from the National Assembly decides on resource allocation to a powerless Senate? Are those heckling women at Bomas aware they’re constitutionally being marginalised?

We have an annual budget of Sh3 trillion, a revenue of Sh1.6 trillion out of which Sh900 billion pays the debt, Sh800 billion goes to wages, Sh350 billion to opaque forms of recurrent expenditure while Sh600 billion (per EACC) is stolen.

So why are we hell-bent to expand government and have a broke country hold an expensive referendum, yet in all amendments we seek, there isn’t a single mention on how we intend to deal with the crippling public debt headed to Sh9 trillion to bankrupt the country? Only fools jeer their own interests, the way the Bomas crowd did.