CHANGE

Let the popular right prevail

One side willing to reinvent public governance. The other seeks continuity.

In Summary
  • The cost of an expanded executive is minimal compared to the burden of exclusion.
  • Critics of BBI seek to exclude targeted individuals from the centre on account of their parentage. This exclusion is no better than tribal democracy, whose damage BBI seeks to repair.

There are two rights competing for public attention. One side is willing to reinvent public governance. The other side makes a passionate call for continuity.

Kenya has a right to redefine its destiny through national reconciliation. The advocates of this line say time is right for Kenyans to ‘re-imagine’ Kenya, through the Building Bridges Initiative.

The report of this re-imagination was handed over to the principals, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, at Kisii State Lodge last Wednesday. The following day, the two took the message to Kisumu. This debate continued at Bomas of Kenya on Monday.

 

Uhuru got a rousing welcome in the lakeside city, the bastion of the opposition. The welcome, coming after an acrimonious falling-out over the 2017 election results, had nothing to do with the short-term gains of the cheering public. It was exuberant; it looked and sounded genuine. Observers saw in the reception what national reconciliation would look like in a ‘re-imagined’ Kenya.

Key BBI issues like increased allocation to counties, from the current minimum 15 to 35 per cent of audited annual revenue, must be institutionalised. It cannot be left to the magnanimity of irritable leaders.

With the additional cash flow, counties could deliver the promise of devolution. But the promise demands the people’s willingness to elect leaders of integrity, and the system’s readiness to punish pilfers of public funds.

The proposed ward development fund, too, will require prudent leadership and management to transform lives, in communities where basic needs such as water, health, and education are urgent. Again, public participation is crucial to its success.

Beneficiaries of higher education loans shall gain from a BBI proposed repayment plan that considers their ability to make good. Job creation is key. Youth start-ups, too, shall find a proposed seven-year tax holiday reason to board the BBI train.

Of course BBI is anathema for those who have enjoyed perks of power since 1963. They don’t understand the feelings of those on the fringes. The alienation was captured during the burial of the late Maa leader William ole Ntimama in Narok in 2016. The ruling clique was referred to as steak-holders, with the excluded salivating – literally – on the fringes.

Proposals on representation can still be negotiated, with less acrimony. The country may not need convoluted representatives to achieve gender parity. There is room for compromise that considers the soaring public wage will.

The expanded Executive attempts to give national political leadership the face of Kenya. Additional three offices – prime minister and two deputies – is fairer presentation than the current two. The Jubilee regime, an alliance of largely Kalenjin and Kikuyu vote, represents the controversial and discredited duopoly.

 

The exclusionist ‘dynasty-hustler’ propaganda disguises historical injustices around ethnicity-defined democracy. Two tribes, with numbers, can gang up to control national politics for eternity.

The possibility is higher when the system is deployed to subvert democracy. It worked for Uhuru and DP William Ruto in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections. Herein lies the urgent need to reconfigure the electoral commission, which BBI proposes.

Critics of BBI seek to exclude targeted individuals from the centre on account of their parentage. This exclusion is no better than tribal democracy, whose damage BBI seeks to repair.

Of course BBI is anathema for those who have enjoyed perks of power since 1963. They don’t understand the feelings of those on the fringes. The alienation was captured during the burial of the late Maa leader William ole Ntimama in Narok in 2016. The ruling clique was referred to as steak-holders, with the excluded salivating – literally – on the fringes.

The cost of an expanded executive is minimal compared to the burden of exclusion. The instability that exclusion creates is more costly to the economy.

Moreover, the proposed PM and two deputies shall come from among MPs. The two deputy prime ministers shall also be MPs and Cabinet secretaries.

The caveat that no public officer shall earn two salaries can be redefined to manage the cost of sustaining an expanded Executive. Inclusivity can and must be done to redress decades of exclusion.

Ruto, who is holding the other end of the stick, has a democratic right to advance his presidential ambition. The ambition rides on a winner-take-all mentality that often threatens to derail Kenya.

Kenya fell off the cliff after the 2007 general election, and nearly slid again in 2017 because of this mentality. It is this exclusionist psyche that BBI seeks to resolve.