• While the 2010 Constitution was good for the country, it failed to factor in the role played by regional identity during elections
• As a solution to winner-takes-it-all, BBI reinstates the former position of Leader of Official Opposition, which will be anchored in the Constitution
It has been stated BBI is going to solve the problems caused by the infamous winner-takes-it-all system. Most people ask, how?
While the 2010 Constitution was good for the country, it failed to factor in the role played by regional identity during elections. Every election cycle, regional kingpins rally their support around such narratives as “it is our time lead”. In the event of an election loss, all the expectations of those supporters are dashed with painful frustrations, most of the times leading to post-election violence.
As a solution to winner-takes-it-all, BBI reinstates the former position of Leader of Official Opposition, which will be anchored in the Constitution and with a budget. This will help channel the election loser’s energy in a more constructive way that benefits the country instead of fueling anarchy and politics of division.
The election loser will assume a constitutional position that empowers him to directly attack the government failure on its promises to the people and/or other approved government programmes.
The average Kenyan voter is guided more by the region a candidate hails from than political ideologies. In fact, parties in Kenya are usually a union of regional interests. As such, when a candidate loses an election, his/her entire region feels it, since it means losing out on development, civil service jobs and resources.
It is also instructive to note that BBI’s proposal to distribute power between the President, Deputy President, Prime Minister, and the two Deputy Prime Ministers—ideally from different regions—will enable different blocs to feel included in government. It importance to state that the three ‘additional” positions will be occupied by MP at minimal extra cost.
Additionally, among the persuasive provisions in the BBI that address the feeling of disenfranchisement is the increase in minimum percentage of national budget to be shared among the counties — from 15 per cent to 35 per cent with further devolution of such resources to the ward level at five per cent. Modelled around the current structure of NG-CDF oversight, it means more people will be involved in implementation of development programmes.
Kenya’s cyclic violence can be blamed mostly on ethnic conflicts brought about by inequalities in distribution of resources within regions. To cure post-election violence, we must first convince communities that their infrastructural development does not depend on having their sons and daughters in top leadership.
BBI proposes to prevent cyclic violence through a multipronged approach, with the main method being to ensure no one feels disfranchised by the government.
The wisdom of BBI is understanding that solving political problems only is not enough to tackle cyclic violence because there are underlying socio-economic issues that precipitate the tension.
It addresses the 47 counties, the youth, women, and persons with disabilities.
Unemployment rates are on the rise, and so is the cost of living. In a country where the youth make up 70 per cent of the population, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen. This is how terrorists and militias and gangs are formed to terrorize citizens—from the frustrations of youth unable to afford a decent living.
As we speak, cunning politicians have already begun to sow the seeds of destruction by whispering into our youth’s ears a divisive message that pits them against the rich or the middle class—I the infamous hustlers vs dynasties narrative.
By empowering the youth, we help build the country and move it towards progress. The BBI bill proposes a seven-year tax holiday for youth startups, which will come in handy for encouraging them to venture into self-employment.
The bill further proposes a four-year grace period for Helb loans. This will give young people peace of mind and time to settle down after securing their first job.
To solve the problem of young people feeling left out of the country’s leadership and decision-making, the bill proposes formation of a constitutional National Youth Commission that will be tasked with mainstreaming young people’s perspectives in planning and decision-making.
The Commission will also advance youth participation in all spheres of public and private life. It will advise the government on the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes to secure sustainable livelihoods for young people. This commission shall have a majority of the commissioners as youth.
BBI also creates two special seats in the National Assembly for young people.
Last year, Chief Justice Maraga’s advisory to the President to dissolve Parliament —owing to its non-compliance with the constitutional two-thirds gender principle — almost plunged the country into a constitutional crisis.
However, it is impossible for the National Assembly to comply with the principle without going into an election, and even then, there is no given formula for achieving the said compliance. I am also of the opinion that we should not backtrack on the gains made on gender balance.
The BBI bill proposes gender top-up positions, if we fail to achieve the threshold through an election. In addition, it makes it easy for women to get elected by motivating parties to field women. Women have long fought the gender equality war and they justly deserve the wins provided by the bill.
BBI detractors have argued that it will be expensive to implement. This could not be further from the truth. The financial implications are negligible. The additional funding to the counties will not come at a higher cost, as it means reducing the allocation for the national government.
Further, the extra cost implications are a small price to pay for the peace and prosperity of this nation. Consider that the country has lost up to seven years of economic growth thanks to election violence in just the last 15 years. The economic consequences of political crises are enormous.
Reasons whereof investors keep away, fearing the chaos that will result in property destruction and tremendous losses. Every five years the country loses an equivalent of two years (one before and another after elections) of development through post-election violence.
Juxtapose the weight of such economic losses against the cost of the BBI process that is a one-off expenditure that will lead to peace in subsequent elections. We cannot put a price tag on peace.
The writer is Limuru MP