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TRANSFORMING KENYA

BBI report ignores elephant in the room

It needed to address: How do you lose an election when in power?

In Summary
  • Election victors have always been those aligned to the system, who purportedly won when everyone thought they had lost.
  • We have seen the failure to declare the right winner as a big challenge to Kenya’s fragile democracy.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
Image: COURTESY

The release of the Building Bridges Initiative report has been hailed as a step in the right direction for Kenya. But some have criticised it for not covering special interests.

The journey to the 2010 Constitution was a long one. In 1982 Kenya became a de jure one-party state; the 1988 Mlololongo elections, the repealing of Section 2A in 1992 ushering in multiparty democracy, the 1997 IPPG and the 2005 referendum. The journey was paved with thorny issues, landmines of greed, and barbed wire approach where anyone who opposed the status quo was punitively incarcerated.

Education in politics is required. The 2010 Constitution is said to be the best ever. Ambitious, heroic and well thought-out. But it lacks education in interpretation of politics. With the aggressive nature of social media, opinions can be altered in seconds. Fake news can easily be taken as factual. The analysis of daily politics is still very weak.

Kenya has been an electoral democracy since 1963. Every five years we held elections as per the constitution. But the question remained. Were these elections always free and fair? The chaos of the Limuru Conference in March 1966 brought about the question of land and control. Who should own land? Able farmer or everyone?

Under the old Swynnerton Plan, 1954, land was identified as a key resource for Kenya’s economic growth. The Mau Mau rebellion (1952) had triggered the review of the land laws, Legco representation and natives’ right to enjoy the market economy.  So Lord Swynnerton came up with recommendations that were carried forward beyond Independence.

To appreciate BBI, education is key. Most countries have not reviewed their own constitutions, but Kenya has moved to the third level of constitutional review and amendment process. To be fair to the authors and proposers of BBI, there is urgent need for education to the public on the meaning of politics towards social transformation. Transformation is not a laboratory change but a process of many events together to address one goal.

At Independence President Jomo Kenyatta laid out a plan for the regeneration of Kenya to overcome unemployment, disease and education. Education stood out as a beacon of hope for the young country. It meant narrowing the knowledge gap by assisting people to understand national issues better.

A review of the Implementing Educational Policies in Kenya, by Eshiwani, 1990, explains that without education, sustainable development would be not be stabilised. The Ministry of Education has come up with two policy papers on improving the quality of education. Education for sustainable development (ESD2017) and in 2018 Competence based Education. However, missing in the syllabus is the curriculum on political education.

To appreciate BBI, education is key. Most countries have not reviewed their own constitutions, but Kenya has moved to the third level of constitutional review and amendment process. To be fair to the authors and proposers of BBI, there is urgent need for education to the public on the meaning of politics towards social transformation. Transformation is not a laboratory change but a process of many events together to address one goal.

In our case we identified the problem, ie, the Constitution not addressing vote transmission, hence, the need for a review.  Key areas were identified for amendment. Now the public has been asked to scrutinise and debate on BBI. But everyone should anticipate a rough sail through storms and waves of self-interests.

Voter education and feedback is key. It is this new process that will initiate a transformative agenda for a strong Kenya. The elephant in the room of BBI is not whether the government should be expanded but whether we can have credible elections. We have seen the failure to declare the right winner as a big challenge to Kenya’s fragile democracy. We can trace this from the 1988 Mlolongo elections to the 2017 electronically transmitted vote results.  

Election victors have always been those aligned to the system, who purportedly won when everyone thought they had lost. The BBI report needed to address the pertinent question: How do you lose an election when in power? Until the international community intervened after  the 2017 elections, Kenya was headed for a ferocious civil war. NASA and Jubilee were digging trenches, blowing horns of war and not bridges for equitability. Kenya was going to be divided into two countries until the March 9, 2018, Handshake.

 The biggest omission in BBI is the elephant in the room: How to manage elections without rigging, electronically or manually.

Governance and social transformation tutor, Tangaza Univesity College, CUEA