SHAKE-UP

BBI should rattle power elite

Citizens’ assemblies better-placed to unsettle this complacent class.

In Summary
  • The post-election clashes of 1992, 1997, 2013, and 2017 should remind Kenyans how not to handle power and polls.
  • In all these polls, opinions of vote counters mattered more than voters’ choices

Constitutional changes should rattle the ruling elite. Citizens’ assemblies are better-placed to unsettle this complacent class. Bunge la Wananchi needs to inject drama into the Building Bridges Initiative to moderate the appetites of the ruling elite.

BBI needs dramatic proposals that could level the ground for presidential and governor contests. This is one way of stabilising the presidency, unsettling complacent incumbents and taming ambitious deputies. How about these proposals?

The president should have the power to dismiss the deputy president when there is sufficient reason to believe the DP is engaging in early succession politics. Also, the president should have the power to dismiss the DP when there is reasonable, and verifiable, evidence of abuse of office. Another proposal is that the presidential two-term limit of five years each should also apply to the deputy president and deputy governors to stabilise national and county executives.

There is sound rationale for these proposals: An ambitious deputy could undermine, even sabotage, the president or governor, knowing the boss cannot dismiss him/her. Also, as it is now, an ambitious DP could exploit the clout to engage in early succession politics.

As it is now, why should a DP in lacklustre regime exploit the power of incumbency to extend sham performance beyond 10 years of co-presidency? The slip gives the status quo another 10 years of loading it on burdened voters. Corruption runs deep in counties because governors and their deputies have conspired against the electorate. Why, then, should deputy governors succeed governors with such impropriety?

These proposals are impersonal—it is not about Uhuru Kenyatta sacking William Ruto or the DP being denied another 10 years in the presidency after a decade with the President. It is not about deputy governors being denied a chance to succeed governors. The proposals serve long-term national interest.

Personalisation of public office, sympathy and prejudices should not undermine national business. Constitutions are not changed to suit the prejudices of individuals. Individuals in public office, or those who aspire to occupy public space, should not approach national business with a wild sense of entitlement.

There are misgivings about the BBI because politicians with vested interests in the Uhuru succession are misleading the citizenry. The steak-holders have skewed BBI to garner sympathy votes from the gullible. The claim incumbents and their allies are creating offices for themselves is the flip side of those who want to monopolise the presidency. The claim BBI is the brainchild of dynasts who want to perpetuate their stakes, or it’s intended to exclude children of hustlers, are claims by agents of the status quo.

Personalisation of public office, sympathy and prejudices should not undermine national business. Constitutions are not changed to suit the prejudices of individuals. Individuals in public office, or those who aspire to occupy public space, should not approach national business with a wild sense of entitlement.

On March 9, 2018,  Uhuru had a dramatic seizure of patriotism, something which eluded him during his first term. He wanted a second term, which he got. But he has since outgrown the constraints of incumbency. President Kibaki in his first term exploited incumbency to sabotage change.

He had promised constitutional change within the first 100 days of inauguration. The Bomas Draft of what would be the 2010 Constitution was bastardised in 2005 to suit the interests of a Kibaki who wanted a second term. He used then Attorney General Amos Wako to create a Wako Draft, which was rejected at the 2005 referendum.

The contested 2007 presidential election led to post-election violence. The post-election ethnic antagonisms of 1992, 1997, 2013, and 2017 should remind Kenyans of how not to handle power and elections. In all these elections, opinions of vote counters mattered more than voters’ choices.

With the March 9, 2018, amity, Uhuru and Raila Odinga are saying Kenyans do not have to fight every five years when elections are rigged. This is Uhuru’s moment to shape his legacy, through BBI. But his critics say he wants to reduce the DP’s chances of succeeding him, while preparing the road for a Raila presidency. Raila has made it known he does not have to be president, but Kenya needs a good leader who would advance the national interest. A rattling BBI could be the way for a new Kenya.